Residents who were being required to pay for a connection to a new sewer system in Caseyville Township considered it a victory when a resolution was approved that allows some residents to continue to use their septic or aeration systems until they no longer pass inspection.
"We won!" exclaimed Jack Hickman, a resident of the Weinel Hills area who has fought the forced connection for a couple years.
A $6.1 million sewer extension project that broke ground in 2012 forced about 300 residents to tap into the new system. The project aimed to alleviate a foul odor in the area, raw sewage runoff into lakes and a potential health hazard.
However, Hickman and some other residents didn't think it was fair to be forced to pay thousands of dollars to join the sewer system, if their septic or aeration systems were working adequately.
Caseyville Trustee James Lemansky said the project was meant to improve the area for residents and for the environment and in the most cost-efficient way for the township.
"Now, we're trying to help the people that can't afford to tap in," Lemansky said.
The resolution, which was unanimously approved at a Feb. 20 Caseyville Township meeting, grants Weinel Hills residents the right to request to be grandfathered into the system. Here are a few details:
* All residents must purchase a one-time $2,500 connection permit, but have the option to pay on a monthly plan.
* Residents who don't want to pay for the installation of a sewer line must provide verification that they passed a St. Clair County Health Department inspection.
* Private systems must be reinspected annually.
* A failing inspection report or sale of the property will result in resident being required to connect to the public system.
In addition, the township will continue to look for ways to help residents who need to connect to the sewer but are short funds to pay contractor fees.
Trustee Rick Donovan, who worked with Hickman to iron out the details in the resolution, said the board is "trying to help out the residents in any way we can."
"If they can have the system tested and show that it works ... they can be grandfathered in," Donovan said.
"It's something that was needed for the residents -- unfortunately it wasn't passed much sooner," he said.
Lemansky said board members tried their best.
"I think it'll be acceptable and worthwhile for the potential participants," Lemansky said of the residents affected by the resolution. "They have a way in which they can make payments and things of that nature."
Costs include: $28 per month to the township and one-time costs of a $75 township inspection fee, $2,500 for the tap-in fee to the township and about $2,000 or more for contractor installation (that cost will vary per household). The township allowed residents to finance the township fee for up to 36 months.
Most of the residents affected by the plan live in the Weinel Hills area bounded by Interstate 64 to the north and St. Clair Avenue to the south.
The township is paying for the project with an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency loan. A fourth of the cost will be covered by a grant from the agency. Upon completion, loan payments are estimated to be $277,568 a year. Fairview Heights will pay 25 percent of loan payments up to $85,000 a year. The township will pay the rest with sewer revenues.
"I'm sure hoping this will alleviate some of the problems of the people over there," Lemansky said. "I do wholeheartedly feel for them."
Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2460.