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updated: 3/27/2011 8:56 AM

Does Elgin's westward expansion cost all residents?

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  • David Kaptain

      David Kaptain

  • Ed Schock

      Ed Schock

 

As a member of the Elgin planning commission in 1999, councilman and mayoral candidate David Kaptain helped write the Far West plan for newer development, sending it along to the city council where it was approved.

The expansion outlined by the plan stopped with the housing crisis and the economic recession, leaving behind bitterness and confusion over who would be paying for the cost of serving the extra area on the west side.

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Kaptain said at a March 16 candidates forum that the people in the older parts of Elgin are footing part of that bill. Mayor Ed Schock said there is no truth to Kaptain's claim.

Schock said every bit of the west side development was paid for by the developers, and the infrastructure needed to support the extra homes is and will continue to be paid by the residents it directly serves.

"In Edgewater, we don't even maintain the streets because they're private," Schock said.

Kaptain says information in the budget about debt service in the water and sewer funds supports his argument. Because of halted development, Kaptain said, the people of Elgin will end up paying for that debt.

"These things are supposed to be paid for by the people who are moving out there -- but they're not moving there," Kaptain said.

The collection of impact fees from developers for things like water and sewer service are collected upfront, in part thanks to efforts by Kaptain in his first council term, but the amount collected has decreased because of the slower growth.

Yet the relatively few people who moved to the far west side still need infrastructure. So the city had a bond sale for a sewer and water main extension. This, in addition to improvements to the Airlite water treatment plant, is largely what Kaptain claims will cost all Elgin residents.

Elgin's chief financial officer, Colleen Lavery, said that's not true. Lavery said each resident using the water and sewer lines pays a monthly fee that goes toward funding the project.

"Our housing units haven't expanded as originally projected to pay for this, but the intention is that we will bill people as they come on line," Lavery said.

That billing cycle will continue as long as necessary to pay for the project and the resulting interest as the debt gets successively delayed, according to Lavery.

In terms of the Airlite facility, Public Services Director David Lawry said it has been an important element of the water distribution system for decades -- long before westward expansion was part of the city conversation.

"With or without westward expansion we need to have the Airlite plant," Lawry said.

The facility originally was constructed with a grant more than 50 years ago. Its operations ensure the city meets its water needs even during any maintenance or cleaning at the Riverside treatment plant.

It appears as though longtime Elgin residents truly are not footing the bill for westward expansion.

Though Kaptain argued against Schock and, indirectly, the facts presented by Lavery and Lawry, he did not propose a course of action for the city.

"There's nothing that can be done about it now because we've already incurred the debt," he said, adding that he just wants residents to know the truth.

But Schock said the truth was that developers paid for everything and no cost for westward expansion will fall to longtime Elgin residents.

"There are no facts to support the assertion that this has cost the city anything," Schock said.

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