Mt. Vernon council likely to vote Monday in favor of water system sale

MT. VERNON — A Monday afternoon workshop to address what now appears a likely sale of Mt. Vernon’s water and sewer system started with Mayor Mary Jane Chesley informing those in the audience that they would not be allowed to address the room, and that forms were provided in the back of the room on which people could pose questions regarding post-sale issues.
 
While many of the questions were ultimately addressed, a large portion of the workshop consisted of Councilman David Wood comparing the two options before the council — to sell, or not to sell.
 
Wood says he intends to have ordinances listed on the March 16 council meeting agenda for both selling, and not selling the water system, but that city leaders are ready to move forward with the final vote next Monday night approving the sale.
 
According to figures Wood presented to the crowd of nearly 200 people, if the City does not sell its water and sewer system to the private company Illinois American Water, it would only have $13 million to invest in repairs and improvements to its system. But if it sells, to IAW, the company would have to invest $30 million into
the system by contract.
 
Additionally, he says the sale would allow the City to avoid $22 million in debt, and to pay off $9 million in existing debt, leaving the City with $30 million to invest in other areas of infrastructure, such as road improvements.
 
Wood says the contract with IAW would not allow the system to be sold for less than $33.5 million, and not more than $40.3 million, but that the price would be determined by three appraisals.
 
Those three appraisals would have to be approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission, which also would regulate the rates IAW would be allowed to charge.
 
Whatever purchase price is allowed by the ICC would have to be paid in full by IAW to the City the day the contract is approved, which would free up $550,000 the City currently holds in a water and sewer reserve account.
 
An additional $400,000-$450,000 that is currently held in reserve as part of the contract with the water management company would also be freed for the City to reinvest, as would $3 million currently held in reserve for an improvement project planned for Broadway and Main.
 
He says those freed up reserves, combined with the ultimate sale price would allow the current council to pay off an existing $9 million water/sewer debt to zero.
According to Wood, Mt. Vernon customers, and the approximately 6,000 customers outside of Mt. Vernon whose communities have contracts with the City of Mt. Vernon would see lower rate increases under IAW, than they would with the City.
You can listen to the meeting in its entirety here.