Freeport Moves To Address Infrastructure

Freeport, Illinois — In my profession when we discuss large problems that face the community, we have a very scientific term we use to describe them. We talk about big hairy problems. Peter and I talked about one big hairy problem in the pensions. We have also talked about flooding and we are working the Pre-Disaster mitigation grant to begin addressing those issues. The other three issues that face the community in the next year are a way to address the conditions of the streets and how to address the stormwater drainage issues in the city. I want to take this time to address all three of these issues.

As many of you are aware in February of 2017 the city passed a graduated rate hike with water rates increasing 8 dollars a year from 2017 to 2019. This money is being used to work water main projects and address other and sewer issues in the City to include new wells and a new water treatment facility. Using the Illinois EPA loan program, we are working to maximize the 32-dollar infrastructure program with the loan forgiveness program. While these increases did address the water and infrastructure issue it did not address the funding for stormwater or for roads. Currently the City collects 4 dollars in a stormwater utility. This collection is reflected in each resident’s water bill and is separate from the water and sewer bill. This payment as is currently collected does not even cover the day to day maintenance of the current stormwater system. Over the last year the city staff has been identifying multiple stormwater issues that need to be addressed totaling 4.8 million in work. With no source of funding, fixing these problems that became issues we currently can only minimally address. As many of you are aware, we have
previously discussed we are facing over 60 million in road repairs. Again, these repairs only have a minimal funding source in Motor Fuel Tax. Over the last year the staff has been looking at multiple sources of funding to work these projects. On Monday the staff proposed to Council to take the last infrastructure increase that is scheduled for the end of April and modify the next monthly infrastructure increase to have the next increase reflect a 4 dollar increase in stormwater and 2 dollars being set aside for road work with the remainder being still sent to the water fund.

The increase in storm water infrastructure fee will allow the City to raise an additional $528,000 in revenue which can be used to address multiple storm water issues to include the fixing of retention ponds, replacing of storm water drains and completion of stormwater projects. These include three Critical Storm projects that will correct current failures within the system. It will also address seven stormwater retention issues over the next 5 years.

The modification of the fee with the addition of the 2 dollars will generate income and will allow the City to bond for approximately 2.7 million dollars to address major road issues throughout the city. This money will be used to focus on streets that do not have major water and sewer work in the next three to five years. By using bond money that is backed by the good faith and credit of the City but is paid through the revenue generated by this fee the city will not have the restrictions placed on it that are normally associated through the use of motor fuel tax. This will allow us to do more miles of roads stretching the dollar that is collected further. This money will allow us over the next five years to add multiple roads to the Capital Improvement Plan, Woodside Drive and Court, areas in Old Cherokee Hills. These repairs in Cherokee Hills, Meadows Drive, Dirck and Rosenstiel along with the roads of Adams, Float, Monroe, Jefferson, and Clinton that are currently in the capital plan will begin to address the repair of major areas
and corridors in the city.

We are facing big issues in the city over the next 5 years and the Capital Improvement Plan that we have put into place along with the modifications we have proposed will begin to take major steps to begin to turn the corner in addressing these issues and taking Freeport into the future.

Lowell Crow is the City Manager of Freeport, Illinois

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