O'Fallon Progress

Letter to the Editor: Indeed, more complicated than that

To the Editor:

Regarding Galyn Rushing’s March 5, 2015, letter titled “More complicated than that,” I would agree with that title....it is more complicated.

I was O'Fallon’s first Director of Finance (1999-2012) and spent nearly 14 years working to get the water and sewer system on a sound financial footing.

When I first became director, all the water cash reserves had been used to help build the new city hall. To get the utility back on a sound business platform, the city borrowed money to invest in equipment (back hoe, ditching machine, automatic lifts) and computers (both hardware and software to modernize meter reading and billing) and negotiated a new water agreement with Illinois American Water Company (IAWC).

Once the financial situation was stabilized, we began to document the actual cost of operating the water and sewer systems. We divided Public Works into three accounts (Streets, Water, and Sewer) and began accurately booking expenses into the correct accounts.

Now that we have accurate accounts, it has allowed the city to investigate the next steps in modernizing the utility. The city purchases water from IAWC at a price controlled by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). The city is in fact a water distribution company; it purchases the water, maintains the water lines, then adds a cost of distribution (set by the city council) and bills customers.

Factor in the complications of State and Federal EPA rules and regulations, ICC rules and regulations, system upgrades and modernization as well as maintaining currency on national issues of climate, finance, legislation and litigation—in addition to the water/sewer system being a money losing operation nine of the last 17 years—I’ve come to the conclusion I must vote “Yes” and give the council the go ahead to investigate the benefits of leasing the water/sewer system to a professional utility management company.

Dean Rich