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Bloomington Aldermen Signal Support For Larger One-Time Sewer Fee Hike

A majority of Bloomington aldermen say they favor increasing storm and sanitary sewer rates all at once next year instead of spreading the hikes over several years.

The majority on a one-time 43 percent increase came out of a special meeting Monday night. Revenue raised would help repair aging infrastructure. The city has identified $136 million in needed improvements to its stormwater, sanitary sewer, and other underground systems over the next 20 years.

Public Works Director Jim Karch said making residents pay more is not easy, but public health matters.

"To be able to justify rate increases, you really have to, as an elected official, feel comfortable that the need is there. And that the rate increase is justified and warranted," said Karch. "You can't just take this one fee out of context with all the other needs in the city."

Karch presented two plans for rate increases to the council. The second option increases fees gradually until 2023.

Aldermen David Sage and Mboka Mwilambwe say they want more discussion, but Alderman Jamie Mathy said the city cannot focus on street repairs when underground lines need replacement.

If passed next week, the increase will add an extra $6.06 per month, or nearly $80 per year, to each residential bill in 2018.

Karch said a survey four years ago showed hundreds of Bloomington households are subject to flooding and toilet overflows.

"The city didn't get to this point with the state of our sewers overnight. It will take a number of years, even with the right funding, for us to tip the scales and start being proactive instead of our current reactive state," Karch said.

If passed, the increase would most likely become effective in January or March.

The Normal Town Council passed its own sewer rate increase last month.

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Baylee Steelman joined us in November 2016. She is a journalism major graduating in May 2018. She mainly covers Bloomington City and Normal Town Council meetings, Unit 5 School Board meetings, produces the weekend News In Review, and helps run GLT events. Baylee also produces and anchors at TV-10, Illinois State University's student TV news station.
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