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posted: 10/27/2011 12:01 AM

DuPage Water Commission wants to raise rates

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During the course of the next four years, many DuPage County municipalities can expect a 115 percent increase in their water costs.

The DuPage Water Commission Wednesday unveiled their new proposed water rates, aimed to offset the increases proposed by the city of Chicago during the same time while eliminating the commission's $70 million debt.

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John Spatz, Executive Director of the DuPage Water Commission, proposed a 30 percent hike next year in water rates, followed by annual increase of 20 percent, 18 percent and 17 percent.

The city of Chicago, meanwhile, is expected to eventually pass a 25 percent hike next year and 15 percent each of the following three years to help cover the cost of upgrading the city's aging water and sewer infrastructure.

The commission's additional increases would allow it to pay off nearly $70 million debt before the quarter-cent sales tax the commission receives expires in 2016.

"The thinking here is it's a few percent over what Chicago is charging but it will allow us to pay down our debt. All of our debt would be gone by May (2015)," Spatz said. "We know we're in hard times and we're trying to do the minimum we need to do as far as increases beyond what Chicago is passing along."

Chicago sells water at a rate of $2.01 per 1,000 gallons. The DuPage Water Commission sells it to its member communities for $2.30 per 1,000 gallons, with the markup covering the agency's debt and operational costs.

Currently, the average family water bill from the commission, before the municipalities tack on additional costs to cover their operational and capital needs, is $17.25 for about 7,500 gallons of water.

That same water will cost $22.43 next year and $37.13 by 2015.

"Each city now has to add on their costs and that could be significant but we're literally talking pennies per day increase on the average family," Spatz said.

Some municipal officials, however, said the increase will be a hard pill to swallow.

"I'm not happy but what are you gonna do? Chicago's raising that 25 percent and the commission's got to cover their expenses," said Wood Dale Mayor Annunziato Pulice, who was the only municipal official in the audience Wednesday. "Their increase is modest but in these times, is any increase modest? Think about it."

Naperville City Manager Doug Krieger was less understanding when reached by email following the meeting.

"I feel like we're being held hostage," he wrote. "Chicago is pushing their financial problems on to the suburbs."

The commission is scheduled to host a public forum on the increase and vote to approve the new structure at its Nov. 17 meeting.

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