Roberts seeks $950,000 loan to replace 11,0000 feet of water mains

ROBERTS — The village is seeking a $950,000 loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to pay for the replacement of 11,000 feet of aging water mains.
Village board President Rick Flessner said the low-interest loan, if approved by the IEPA, would be paid back over a 20-year period at an interest rate of about 2 percent.

The village has steadily increased its water rates over the past 10 years, most recently in September, in anticipation of borrowing the funds, Flessner said. Repayment of the loan is to be derived from revenue from the village’s water system.

The loan would cover most of the project’s costs, Flessner said. The only costs the village would pay for “out of pocket” are those associated with project design and engineering, Flessner said, and construction inspection.

Engineering and project design costs are expected to total $103,000. Meanwhile, the inspection costs, which had been estimated at more than $100,000, should be reduced by at least $80,000 because Flessner is doing the inspection himself, instead of the village engineer.

Flessner, who worked as an engineering inspector for 34 years for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said he submitted his resume to the IEPA and has been approved to oversee the project. He said his compensation will be set by the village board in the future.

“I’m going to get paid for it, but it will be at a rate similar to what our village employees are paid,” Flessner noted.

The village has already spent an estimated $25,000 on engineering fees for the project, Flessner said. The village has been working with Farnsworth Group, an engineering firm based in Bloomington.

Farnsworth Group submitted a project plan Dec. 4 as part of the village’s application for the loan through the IEPA’s Public Water Supply Loan Program.  The firm also assisted the village with topographic work to determine the locations of the town’s water mains, drainage tiles and utilities, Flessner said, and helped the village with surveying residents this fall as part of the application process.

The project will involve the replacement of 11,000 lineal feet of ductile-iron water mains, which are believed to date back to the 1940s, Flessner said. The 4-inch ductile-iron pipe will be replaced with 6-inch polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe.

The project will not involve replacing all three miles of water mains in the village, just the ductile-iron mains, Flessner said.

“We have some PVC pipe already in place, so we’re not going to replace that,” Flessner noted.

After the project is done, all of the village’s water mains will be constructed of PVC pipe, he said.

Flessner said the project is targeted to start in August 2013. Flessner said he would hope the project would take no more than a year to complete.

The village has not decided whether to remove or instead abandon its old water mains when the new mains are installed. But Flessner said he would prefer abandoning them.

“It might be cheaper just to abandon them because a lot of our water mains run down the middle of the street, so if we can relocate the mains to the edge of the street, that will save us having to tear up the street (to remove the old ones),” Flessner said. “We’re trying to pursue the least invasive method.”

Flessner said the village decided now was the time to pursue the loan because of low interest rates. The continued deterioration of water mains also factored into the urgency of seeking the loan.

“We have experienced quite  a few broken mains and are unable to deliver water at a higher pressure with our current system,” Flessner wrote in an Oct. 30 letter to residents and landowners in Roberts. “Delaying this investment could mean either increasing rates of pipe breakage and deteriorating water service, or suboptimal use of utility funds, such as paying more to repair broken pipes than the long-term cost of replacing them.”

To meet IEPA loan requirements, the village board in September approved increasing the base-usage rates for water service from $30 to $40 per month, effective Oct. 1. While increasing rates, the board also increased the base usage from 1,500 gallons per month to 2,000 gallons.

The base-usage water rates were $20 per month in 2010, then rose to $30 in 2011.

Flessner said the new system that will be installed should help keep rates more stable. In his letter to residents, he said, “we can guarantee a water system that will provide longevity and dependability for future decades.”

The village has used grant money to replace one of its aging water mains this year. The village replaced a water main in an alley between Oak Drive and Sunset Drive using a $25,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity.

Meanwhile, the village is currently working to secure a $50,000 grant to be used toward the connection of two “dead-end” mains between Cemetery Road and Dilks Street, which should relieve a number of residents of substandard water service, Flessner said.

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