Wheaton residents will start the new year with a 30 percent increase to their water and sewer rates in their next bill.
In a 6-1 vote Monday night, the Wheaton City Council approved the hike from $2.65 to $3.45 per 100 cubic feet of water. The combined rate for water and sewer services will be $5.50 per 100 cubic feet of water used. According to city documents, the average Wheaton customer’s water rate will increase by $9.60 per month, based on an average use of 9,000 gallons per month. The increase in water rates to Wheaton residents reflects a 30 percent increase passed along to the city from the DuPage Water Commission (DWC). Wheaton’s cost to purchase water from the DWC is projected to be $4.3 million this year.
But the water increase does not sit well with Councilman Tom Mouhelis who was the opposing vote. Mouhelis said he thought it was wrong for municipalities in DuPage County and other suburbs to have to pay for an infrastructure project in Chicago.
Mouhelis asked why Wheaton should bear the water commission's costs.
Wheaton receives its water from the DuPage Water Commission, which receives it from the city of Chicago. In the fall Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced an increase in its rates over the next four years to pay for upgrades in the city’s water delivery system. Chicago increased its rates by 25 percent or 2012 and will increase rates by 15 percent for each of the next three years.
The DuPage Water Commission transfers and sells water from Lake Michigan to 24 municipalities and unincorporated areas in the County. The commission’s funding comes from the sale of the water plus a quarter-cent countywide sales tax.
If the rate hike was not passed along to customers, the city of Wheaton would face a loss of about $125,000 per month, said City Manager Don Rose.
“We are tied to those increases,” said Wheaton Mayor Mike Gresk.
Although Mouhelis agreed opposing the rate hike would cost the city a lot of money, he said his no vote was a “statement” of opposition to Emanuel’s infrastructure plan. He said Wheaton residents should not have to spend their money in order to improve the City of Chicago.
Chicago sells water at a rate of $2.01 per 1,000 gallons. The DuPage Water Commission sells Chicago water to its communities for $2.30 per 1,000 gallons. The DWC rate will increase to $2.66 per 1,000 gallons.
Last month Councilman Phil Seuss, who serves as the city representative to the DuPage County Water Commission, briefed council on the impending increases. Although Suess acknowledged a rate hike is not pleasant, he said improvements to Chicago’s water delivery system will ultimately benefit DuPage County with more efficient delivery.
This year’s rate hike from the DuPage Water Commission is not the last. The commission is expected to increase its rates by 20 percent in 2013, 18 percent in 2014, and 17 percent in 2015, to pay off a $70 million debt.
By 2016 the portion of the county sales tax that supports the DuPage Water Commission will expire. When that happens Seuss said the DWC will have $30 million in the bank for capital improvements.