O'Fallon Progress

Should O’Fallon water users drink up department’s surplus funds?

O’Fallon mayoral candidates Phil Goodwin, left, and Herb Roach, right.
O’Fallon mayoral candidates Phil Goodwin, left, and Herb Roach, right. Provided photo

Mayoral candidate Phil Goodwin has a water rate reduction plan that candidate Herb Roach has denounced as not fiscally responsible for infrastructure needs.

Goodwin wants to return a $3 million surplus in the O’Fallon Water Department to rate payers through a water rate reduction plan that provides 1,000 gallons of free water per month until the department’s surplus is paid down.

The city’s Water Department has $10 million in reserves, and $3 million of it is surplus funds. The city maintains $7 million on reserve so that the city can make emergency repairs or needed operations improvements without borrowing funds.

“We are very blessed in O’Fallon to have a responsible financial management team and a highly trained professional staff who operates our water department, which has led to one of the best run departments around,” Goodwin said. “Because of their work, we have been able to deliver high-quality water to our citizens and build a healthy reserve in order to be prepared for emergencies.”

Goodwin said his plan averages out to be 33 gallons a day for free provided to all rate payers.

Goodwin, who has been city clerk for 16 years, is a retired Air Force colonel. He has lived in O’Fallon since 1977 and currently runs an insurance business, Phil Goodwin and Associates.

“This plan will allow every rate payer in O’Fallon to see a reduction in their monthly bill,” he said. “As mayor, I will ask the City Council to approve this plan to provide an estimated reduction of $81 a year per household until the surplus is eliminated.”

Roach disagrees with Goodwin’s proposal.

“Mr. Goodwin wants to give away the city reserves. But we used $10 million of our reserves last year and the FY 2018 budget has use of over $11 million of our reserves. Many of these dollars are going toward infrastructure needs. We have been told of needs to replace old water mains before we have major problems, from our Public Works Department and of needs for additional staffing by our police, fire and EMS from our public safety departments. Without the use of our reserves on these types of needs, we would have to increase taxes or borrow more money and further increase our debt,” he said.

Roach also noted that O’Fallon services 18,000 customers, with 12,000 within the city limits and 6,000 who don’t live in the city.

“So how is that going to be split up?” he asked.

Roach has served on the O’Fallon City Council since 2011 and has been active in the community for 35 years. He spent 40 years in management in the corporate business world. He is currently vice president of SCORE, which provides counseling and training to small business owners.

Roach said a well-maintained water and sewer department, and the rest of the capital infrastructure, is the foundation of a vibrant city’s life. The infrastructure needs and city services must be funded and maintained before more amenities are funded.

“Without these basic operations, nothing else happens — no new businesses, no customers for our businesses, no new home development, and no visitors to community facilities and functions,” he said.

“Quality of life, public safety, commerce, and tourism depend to a great degree on the proper care and quality of our streets, sidewalks, support facilities, police protection, fire suppression capacity, and water, sewer, and storm water systems,” he said.

“Every good economic plan has the maintenance of a solid infrastructure as a key element of its plan. Like anything you build, if you don’t maintain your infrastructure everything around it begins to crumble. I will work with all our homeowners to see that every neighborhood in O’Fallon has the needed infrastructure which will maintain safe and attractive housing,” Roach said.

Goodwin said he wants to save taxpayers money without risking services.

“The cornerstone of my administration as mayor will be to ensure the city provides high quality essential services without asking more from our rate payers or property tax payers,” he said.

Goodwin’s water rate reduction proposal is the second part of his “Save Now and Forever” financial management plan, which includes a property tax relief plan that he believes will save homeowners 18 percent each year.

“I am the only candidate who believes we can continue to grow our city and provide relief to the residents of O’Fallon,” Goodwin said. “My opponent has no plan to reduce the burden on city residents.”

Mayoral candidate forum is March 23

The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce, O’Fallon Progress and the O’Fallon Weekly will co-host a candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. March 23 for O’Fallon mayoral and city clerk candidates. The forum will be in the O’Fallon City Council Chambers, 255 S. Lincoln in O’Fallon. A forum moderator will introduce all candidates, ask questions, manage time and maintain proper decorum. The public is invited to attend the forums; seating will be limited. The forum will also be broadcast live on Charter Cable Channel 993 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. It will also be streamed live and available for replay under the Video on Demand button on the homepage, ofallon.org.