Council grapples on regional water company concept

Council grapples on regional water company concept

CARLINVILLE (Dec. 7, 2017) – It was appropriate that it was raining after Monday’s Carlinville City Council meeting, because a large chunk of the meeting was dedicated to discussing the city’s water source and possible involvement with a water commission.

The council in June gave the go-ahead to explore joining the Illinois  Alluvial Rural Water Company (IARWC) with Fosterburg, Jersey County Rural Water Company and possibly Jerseyville. The plan involves use of groundwater pumped from an aquifer located in Jersey County.  The city has set aside $30,000 for the project.

Other options include revamping the Carlinville Lake or looking at becoming a customer of Litchfield.

With the recent announcement that Fosterburg had dropped out of the regional concept and that Dorchester may become a player in the formation, it created questions from council members as to what the city should do going forward.

The council could take another vote on the matter at the January meeting, six months after the original decision had been made.

Councilman Cindy Campbell represents the city on the regional water board and was among those at the last meeting in Jerseyville on Nov. 30.

She updated the board on what took place at the meeting, which included city members Beth Toon, Randy Bilbruck and Kim Heigert attending to get a grasp on what was taking place as they attempt to form this water company.

Allen Davenport of Jerseyville was appointed as president of the commission; Campbell was appointed vice-president and Sue Campbell of Dorchester appointed the treasurer.  An attorney was hired and assigned to file the items of organization for the company.

Bilbruck brought up the discussion on the water company, stating the city is in dire need of finding a solution to the water situation in Carlinville.

He asked to continue to look at other options.

“What concerns me when I saw Dorchester at the meeting and not Fosterburg,” Bilbruck said. “I believe Dorchester is a part of the Gillespie water district and that concerns me  that we’re putting council money into going into other districts and pulling their members out. Are we as a council wanting to pick and choose different entities to rip out of there to come up with this regional concept and at what cost?”

Bilbruck said the concept is not solid and could be a couple years before something is finally hammered out.

“Does Carlinville have that much time to wait?” asked Bilbruck.

Campbell agreed that it is a dire situation, but wants to continue to weigh the current situation with the regional company since a majority of the council voted to do so in June.

“I don’t understand throwing our efforts against each other versus throwing our efforts in the direction of solving a problem for thousands of people,” Campbell said. “I just don’t understand why it has to be this difficult to do what we said we were going to do – solve the water problem.”

As far as possibly pulling Dorchester away, Campbell commented “As far as pulling users from other communities, nobody’s had a problem with Litchfield doing it. If we’re okay in being pulled to Litchfield, I don’t see a problem with us providing a reliable and dependable and good water source to other communities who are interested in having that for their community.”

Bilbruck responded that Litchfield is at a crossroads in building a pipeline under Interstate-55.

“If they don’t put in a big enough pipeline in to service us, that option is off the table down the road,” said Bilbruck. “All I’m saying is that we should explore other options.”

“At what price are we going to after this water and who is going to get hurt?” asked councilman Kim Heigert.

“I can’t give you a price per thousand for water under this concept – I can’t,” Campbell said. “I do not believe we have an accurate per a thousand for Litchfield. I understand that people want that.”

Councilman Beth Toon commented on the situation.

“I respect every single water user in Carlinville and I respect their right to have a quality product at a reasonable rate,” said Toon.  “To keep charging forward on something if it doesn’t quite make sense doesn’t make sense. Why not consider all the options before we close the door?”

“The city of Jerseyville has not committed to this project, but until the council has a vote that overturns us in this direction or tells me to do a different thing, I have a duty to do what a council’s majority vote has spoken to do. That’s what I believe is the right thing.”

Councilman Sarah Oswald was concerned about how Litchfield approached the process.

“The part of trouble I have with Litchfield is that Litchfield just threw some figures out there,” Oswald said. “They didn’t tell me what it was going to cost to get the lines down. They didn’t study anything. They just made some figures and said that’s what it’s going to be. If you want us to be interested in Litchfield, get Litchfield to study what it’s going to cost to get me water. And that’s not happening.”

 Statutory Authority

Toon asked acting city attorney Brent Cain to look into whether city has statutory authority to agree into a non-profit regional water commission.

Cain found references in former city attorney Rick Bertinetti’s files about a couple of instances involving language with the Illinois Constitution.

An appellate court case from 1982, the Village of Sherman vs. the Village of Williamsville, has not had a challenge to that case, which allows villages to contract and do whatever it does there.

“I’m willing if somebody says we don’t have legal authority, to bring it to my attention,” Cain said. “But my legal advice to the council tonight – I found nothing that says we do not have the authority to do that. The proof I have is that we do have the authority, and until somebody shows me differently, that’s what I would stand on. There’s not a lot of law on this particular point.”

Partial release of funds

The council voted 5-3 with alderman Direso, Elaine Brockmeyer, Campbell, Oswald and Doug Downey voting for releasing $3000 of the $30,000 set aside to the IARWC for initial fees and legal fees for the company starting.

“We felt it would be more fair if everybody releases the same amount of funds at the same time,” Campbell said of Carlinville, Dorchester and Jersey Rural Water for the start-up fees. “Each entity involved would  release $3,000 to the Illinois Alluvial Rural Water Company.”

Other business

Former city employee Jeff Stewart approached the council asking to re-visit his employee file and removing all verbal warnings and gave an update on how Public Works Director Tim Hasara handled the situation while Stewart worked at the water treatment plant.

Stewart said Hasara created a hostile enthronement at the water plant, and having worked there 25 years had never had a conflict with anyone.

“I felt I had to leave that position,” Stewart said, adding he would like to make aware the situation so no other employees would be subject to that kind of behavior.

As far as his records, Carla Brockmeier, city clerk, said “Employee files are part of the permanent record, and technically cannot be used against you after 24 months.”

Treasurer Jodi Reichmann said that the only information Brockmeier can give to any interested parties looking for work information on Stewart is the dates of service that he worked with the city.

Quiet Zone

Discussion about whether the council could consider portion of Carlinville Quiet Zones for train traffic will be taken to the next public lands meeting next week.

All railroads crossings from Cisco Road to Rinnake Road are eligible for the quiet zone, where trains are not allowed to blow the whistles.

Steve Parr, the city’s zoning director, said the application process to become a quiet zone is quite lengthy and that the city must wait until all fencing and safety procedures are in place.

Once that is finished, the city can apply to have the area or areas designated as quite zones.

The council voted to approve the first readings of the tax levy ordinance and the tax abatement ordinance, beginning May 1, 2017 through April 30, 2018 in a sum of $1,067,000 and $162,000.