Water and sewer rates for Arlington Heights residents will be going up each year over the next five years -- including a 19 percent jump in 2016 -- to pay for what officials said are critical infrastructure needs.
A rate plan approved by the village board Monday calls for hikes of 5 percent, 19 percent, 5 percent, 5 percent and 5 percent over the next five years. The cost for water and sewer will go from today's $5.56 per 1,000 gallons to $8.04 per 1,000 gallons in 2019, according to village documents. That would take the average bimonthly bill from $140.11 to $193.01.
The increase is necessary to replace aging, and often broken, water mains, officials said.
"This money will go toward replacing water mains that are anywhere from 50 to 80 years old and have experienced a high frequency of water main breaks," Public Works Director Scott Shirley said.
Arlington Heights has 260 miles of water mains with an average age of 61 years, a village memo states. According to the American Water Works Association, water utilities should expect between 25 and 30 water main breaks a year for every per 100 miles of water main, but over the last five years Arlington Heights is averaging 94 breaks per 100 miles, the memo said.
In 2009, the village had 163 water main breaks. By 2012, that number was up to 347, according to the village. A Northwest Municipal Conference survey referenced in the memo states other suburbs have experienced about 42 water main breaks per 100 miles, less than half as many as Arlington Heights.
"We've hit a juncture where we need to make additional investments in the system," Shirley said.
The village currently budgets about $400,000 a year to replace water mains, but officials said that is not enough. With the rate hike, the village will be able to replace 1 percent of the system a year, at an annual cost of $3.7 million, starting in 2022, officials say.
The hike plan was passed by the village board's special committee by a 7-1 vote.
Trustee John Scaletta cast the only vote against the hikes because the 19 percent jump in 2016.
"I think that having a significant jump is just something that a lot of people, many who are on a fixed income, would not be able to absorb," he said.
Trustee Jim Tinaglia was absent.
Other trustees said the hikes were unfortunately necessary.
"Eventually it's going to catch up with you and you have to replace these things," said Trustee Tom Glasgow. "Sometimes you just need to rip the Band-Aid off right away and get it done."
The work of fixing the water mains will be contracted out and start as early as next summer, Shirley said.
A village memo online outlines the risks of not fixing the broken water main system.
"Additional failures increase the potential for injuries to repair personnel and extend the time customers are without water. This can be a nuisance to residents, but can become a significant problem to critical customers such as the Northwest Community Hospital and local assisted care living centers," the memo states. "Large water main failures could potentially result in systemwide boil order notices that could lead to diminished customer confidence and potential health issues."
"This is critical infrastructure," said Trustee Robin LaBedz. "This is as much a public safety issue as police and fire. Without drinkable water and a public sewer system, we can't survive."