Editorials

Coal company goes bankrupt and water customers get soaked

Marissa, IL, made investments to help a development deal with Peabody Energy that could have yielded big taxes. Instead, the village got the “zonk” and a $1 million liability.
Marissa, IL, made investments to help a development deal with Peabody Energy that could have yielded big taxes. Instead, the village got the “zonk” and a $1 million liability. CBS

When you play “Let’s Make a Deal,” you might get a car and a vacation or you might get the Zonk.

Marissa finds itself winning a goat instead of a valuable cash prize following its decade-old deal with Peabody Energy Co.

The 818 water and sewer customers in the village have a $1.06 million debt after Peabody’s bankruptcy. They are repaying the government loan that built water lines and a better water tower to service a Peabody fishing and hunting community that never happened.

The village could have won big taxes. Instead each customer is on the hook for about $1,300 in debt and their rates are going up about $18 a month after three years.

Considering the size of the liability, it could have been worse. That rate increase spreads the individual liability over six years.

Resident Gene Triefenbach decried the increase, saying some families might miss a meal over the added burden. He wanted village leaders to feel more pain and make some cuts. Some called for the village to walk away from its obligation.

Walking away from an obligation created this mess and should not be an option. The village already paid down a good portion of the debt during the past year using funds on hand.

Spending $18 more a month for the same service is lousy, but sounds like a better deal than living with empty accounts, one less cop or a few more potholes. That said, once the debt is paid or if the property develops, residents need to see immediate relief from the bail-out they are providing.

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