Residents weigh in on proposed water company agreement

By Beau Ebenezer

Residents weigh in on proposed water company agreement

March 15, 2014 Updated Mar 17, 2014 at 11:17 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Saturday morning, Peoria residents weighed in on a heated discussion regarding the proposed franchise agreement between the city and Illinois American Water Company.

Currently, the city has the option to buy the water company every five years.

A new revised proposal would extend the agreement to 20 years.

If approved, the water company would be required to spend $8 million each year on infrastructure improvements.

A franchise fee of $1.33 would be added to residents' water bill each month.

Almost $3.00 would be added per month for the average industrial user.

City staff believe the added fee is more suitable than other taxes on residents

"A franchise fee would be attached to anyone who has a water account," said Peoria City Manager, Patrick Urich. "Those who don't pay property taxes, will have to pay for this as well as those who do pay property taxes. We felt this was more representative for the entire community and that is why we set it up this way."

Some residents don't think a water fee is the right way to go.

While others said it's the best solution for improving roads.

"If you use water, which my water bill is one of my lowest bills anyway, you are going to have a fee," said Peoria resident, Todd Brooks. "That fee is going to go directly to our roads. It sounds like a good deal to me."

"There is no guarantee that the money they get from this will be used for roads," said Peoria resident, Paul Wilkinson. "They have taken funds and shuffled funds around before for road projects."

Another concern was where the proceeds from the fee would end up.

Some think the new fee will be similar to the garbage fee, which was implemented several years ago.

"It didn't have anything to do with garbage," said Peoria resident, Bob Manning. "It had to do with putting additional police officers on the street, which is fine. But it's grown now to $14 per month."

Those in favor of the revised agreement said it could create dozens of jobs in the community.

"The dollars that the city would receive that would be dedicated solely to infrastructure, our folks at public works and the construction world will benefit from this," said Laborer's Local 165 representative, Matt Bartolo.

City staff could put tax increases on property or motor fuel instead.

Administrators said the franchise fee would be most effective.

The Peoria City Council will take on the proposal March 25th.