Robbins Raises Rates
The Robbins town commissioners sharply increased water and sewer rates Thursday night, and may raise them again.
In what was described as "the first of a two-phased rate increase," the board raised the town's lowest base price for water from $13 to $17 -- a hike of more than 30 percent. They raised the lowest base sewer rate from $12 to $18 a month, a 50 percent boost.
Those rates are for in-town customers, and don't include use charges, which went up from $2.98 per thousand gallons of water to $3.73, while sewer charges were boosted from $4.08 per thousand gallons to $5.10.
Out-of-town customers pay double the in-town rates, and the cost per thousand gallons increases after 3,000 gallons and again after 6,000 gallons per month.
Typical monthly usage runs 1,980 gallons, so the monthly bill for in-town customers will go up about 32 percent, and 40 percent for out-of-town, according to Town Manager Brant Sikes.
Robbins had no choice but to raise rates. At a communitywide meeting, Sikes has estimated that a 50 percent increase would probably be needed to get the water/sewer budget into the black. It has been running at a loss for so long that the town is in danger of losing control to the state.
Sikes hopes that a water-use study being done with the help of Jean Crews-Kline won't call for a further increase -- but the town is preparing for one just in case.
Robbins recently received a $400,000 grant that requires only a 10.1 percent match. The money has to be spent on improvements, and one of the first will be replacing half the town's water meters.
Nearly half the town's water is lost in its antiquated system, Sikes has found -- some because of leaks and some because of defective meters, as well as illegal taps. Replacing meters usually turns up a few that are not reading at all, Sikes said.
"We will replace half our meters," Sikes said. "We will install either an altitude valve or a pressure regulating valve on our south tank, and fix leaks on our Oak Street line."
At present, water in the south tank is not moved quickly enough through the system. It loses its chlorination, goes stale and has to be dumped frequently.
The grant will go a long way toward alleviating many problems caused by old, out-of-date equipment and service lines, and by the fact that Robbins just does not use the large amount of water its system was designed to provide for several industries that required large quantities of water.
When those industries shut down, the town was left with too much capacity and too few customers to keep its water moving and fresh.
In other business, the board began the process of changing two sections of town ordinances. One change would put place limits on weeds, grass and refuse. The other would extend hours during which a game room may operate on Sundays, or abolish the game room ordinance and treat them like any other business.
Both will be considered at a second meeting later this month.
Brian Allen's application for a license to operate a game room at 141 S. Middleton St. was approved as part of the consent agenda (where items are approved with one motion) and will have to operate under present rules until that section is changed or repealed.
The board will begin the process of changing zoning for property that had been zoned RA (residential/agricultural) even though it had always been used for business. The change could be made at the next meeting.
The commissioners also took the first steps in forming an advisory panel on the $50,000 microloan program funded by a STEP grant from the Rural Center. The panel will propose candidates for small loans to entrepreneurs to the town board for approval.
A special meeting to consider a budget for the next fiscal year will be called later in May.
Sikes is interviewing candidates for the half-time job as marketing director (funded by STEP) and will begin a search for an assistant town manager. That position was approved as part of the consent agenda.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at jchappell@ thepilot.com.
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