Another year has passed, and Swansea and St. Clair County Township officials have yet to reach an agreement on cost-sharing arrangements for the new $20 million sewer plant in Swansea. Negotiations have been going on for more than three years.
St. Clair County Township Supervisor Tim Buchanan contends the township is more than willing to enter into binding arbitration with the village to settle the issue. However, he said the township "would prefer to sit down across the table with village representatives and work continuously until an agreement is reached."
Swansea Mayor Jim Rauckman said the village isn't interested in spending taxpayer money pursuing binding arbitration as it's "very costly."
"We don't think we should have to pay for binding arbitration," he said. "We are negotiating against ourselves."
The village sent the township a notice of termination of the Sewage Service contract last year. When the contract expires in 2015, Rauckman said the village plans to bill the township customers serviced by the Swansea sewer plant directly.
Under the current contract, the township collects money from its residents and pays Swansea for services.
"We are still collecting some money, but nothing near what represents 33 or 34 percent of the principal and interest payments (for the new sewer plant)," Rauckman said.
Both sides have met and sent letters back and forth negotiating how much the township should pay, but not much progress has been made.
The village has asked the township to pay for its 3,030 residents, which make up one-third of the sewer's customers. This means the township would pay the village about $1 million a year to cover the construction cost of the new plant, ongoing usage and operations over time.
The township disagrees with that amount. Buchanan said the township has offered to pay the principle and interest on the Swansea sewer plant loan in proportion to the plant capacity needed by the township.
Rauckman said the township only wants to pay for what its residents use and not any reserve capacity. As far as the village is concerned, he said "the ball is in the township's court."
Swansea has paid just over $3.1 million to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to cover the first four payments on the $20 million loan for the new sewer plant, according to information provided by Interim Village Administrator Craig Coughlin.
Swansea will continue to make payments until the village can collect more from the township, Rauckman said.
The township is not contributing more money for the new plant though the township has collected more from township residents since summer 2010 to help pay for the plant, which has been operating since the beginning of 2011.
Buchanan said the township has been setting aside money in a separate account to pay Swansea for the township's share of the new sewer plant's principle and interest that have been accruing during negotiations. He said the township has $720,000 plus interest set aside.
"We have not seen any of that money," Rauckman said.
It's unclear when or if an agreement will be reached between Swansea and St. Clair Township.
Rauckman said he would like an agreement to be reached prior to him passing the gavel to Swansea's new mayor elected in April. Rauckman has announced he will not be running for re-election.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.