MOUNT VERNON — With standing room only, close to 600 people are estimated to have attended Monday night’s meeting of the Mt. Vernon City Council, most in attendance protesting a recent proposal to sell the city’s water and
sewer system to a private company.
A number of individuals spoke on the issue, including representatives of Illinois American Water who said the company has a 91 percent satisfaction rate.
However, the item was tabled until a later date, with a non-voting workshop to be held on the issue at 3 p.m. Monday at the Roland Lewis Building. While open to the public, votes cannot be taken at a workshop.
The City says it fights with water main breaks approximately twice a week, and that in addition to a $30 million purchase price, Illinois American Water will invest another $30 million to upgrade pipes and lines that the city cannot without a 60 percent rate increase.
Mayor Mary Jane Chesley said she has been in contact with cities such as Cairo and Grafton who are happy with American Water. Multiple people in the crowd last night called on Chesley and the council members to resign their seats.
As the debate on the issue carried on, tempers began to flare, with arguments becoming quite heated at times. One speaker noted the only people speaking in favor of the proposal were the City Council and their invited guests. Former City Manager Ray Botch was on hand and also spoke out against the proposal, along with City Council candidate Stephen Casper.
A statement by Mike Bullard of the Team of Mayors was read to the crowd, as Bullard was away on a previously scheduled trip. He is asking why the mayors’ co-op idea is being ignored, saying the City’s plan would sell the system for pennies on the dollar.
You can listen to the entire meeting here.