ALTAMONT — Altamont water customers will begin paying an extra $9.75 a month next year after the city council approved an infrastructure fee Monday.

There were no public comments before council members made their decision.

The ordinance was the result of an investigation by the council determining it was necessary to begin collecting a monthly capital infrastructure fee of $9.75 each month to cover the costs of a future water main replacement project and any other high-cost infrastructure repairs or replacements such as water pumps.

Commissioner Todd Slingerland, who oversees the water and sewer departments, made the infrastructure fee proposal to the council. He estimates the increase will generate $12,090 per month and $145,080 annually based on the current number of water meters.

As the ordinance reads, an annual review will be made of the fee by Certified Public Accountants representing the City of Altamont to see if the amount collected is enough to cover expenses. Also during the annual review, the fee will be evaluated by the council for any adjustments.

The fee will increase a minimum of 3 percent every year. The fee will also be based on the number of water users, which the city will review annually.

“If the city expands and we have more water users, that’s great. The rate will go down. If the number of water users decrease, the rate will go up,” Slingerland said. “This will be listed separately on the bill as an infrastructure fee.”

Mayor Jason Rippetoe noted that the money collected from the fee has to be spent on capital improvements.

Rippetoe, Slingerland, and Commissioners Michael Walker and Dan Milleville approved the increase, while Commissioner Tayler Polk dissented.

“I just think the current situation with everybody’s financial situation with COVID-19, it is a terrible time for a rate increase,” Polk said after the meeting. “People are struggling to make ends meet right now. It’s really tough for everybody.”

“I think there may be some inefficiencies we need to clean up before we decide to raise rates,” Polk said. “Our water rates are already high and it’s hard to bring families into town when you have high utility rates.”

In other business, the council:

  • Announced the estimated tax levy for 2021 is $244,200, an increase of $11,610 from last year. Figures provided by the City of Altamont show increases in general corporate fund of $6,500; police, $1,470; library, $2,640; and audit, $1,000. Unemployment, Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF), water and electric figures are unchanged.
  • City Clerk and Treasurer Sarah Stephen told council members the city was awarded a grant in the amount of $95,666 for COVID-19-related expenses. Stephen said the allotment of money was based on population.
  • Approved an ordinance to purchase property for establishing a utility easement on The Effingham Equity property.
  • Approved an ordinance to establish a TIF agreement with Effingham Equity for 10 years.
  • Approved a south lift station improvement proposal for the cost of $377,970 that includes the replacement of pipe in the south end of town. Slingerland said the improvements need to be made to facilitate expansion in the south side of the city around the interstate. He said the original system was in place when there was only a hotel and a couple of gas stations in the area and doesn’t include the church and expansion on Do It Drive. Slingerland said the upgrade will provide a more efficient system to include the replacement of existing 4-inch pipe with 8-inch pipe.
  • Approved a proposal from Curry and Associates Engineering for south lift station improvements for the amount of $67,000.
  • Approved a request to host a 5K walk/run or kids 1-mile fun run on Saturday, Dec. 19, to benefit the 2021 Altamont Sesquicentennial celebration. Check-in and shirt pickup is from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Altamont Unit 10 office parking lot. Contestants are encourage to wear ugly sweaters. Sweater judging starts at 9 a.m. with awards going to the top three ugly sweaters.
  • Approved a service agreement with Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center for a 2021 employee assistance program. Family members of an employee’s household would also be covered as part of the agreement.

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Charles Mills is reporter and videographer for the Effingham Daily News. A 1983 graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, he worked as senior video editor for a Nashville television station. He is a native of Vandalia.

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