Sewer rates frozen for 5 years in Dixon

Vote at special meeting avoids 3 percent increase

Published: Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 10:50 a.m. CDT

DIXON – The Dixon City Council voted to freeze the city’s sewer rates for 5 years.

The decision came as the result of a 3-2 vote during a special City Council meeting Thursday morning. The votes against the rate freeze came from commissioners Dave Blackburn and Dennis Considine, who said it wasn’t a fiscally responsible move.

Voting for the rate freeze were Mayor Jim Burke and commissioners Colleen Brechon and Jeff Kuhn, saying the citizens deserved a break.

“Rita [Crundwell] was helping herself to that wastewater treatment budget money,” Burke said. “And we have received millions in reimbursement, and now we’re going to load it up on the citizens, and let them also pay back for her sticky fingers [if we don’t freeze the rate].”

The city has received $39.2 million from a settlement with its former auditors and the sale of Crundwell’s assets, to offset the nearly $54 million the former comptroller stole during 2 decades.

The rate freeze, established by an ordinance, can be undone at any point, City Attorney Rob LeSage said.

The freeze will save the average Dixon homeowner about $15 a year, according to the city. Earlier this month, the City Council voted down a 1-year freeze, so that it could be brought back as a 5-year measure.

Considine voted against the 5-year freeze, but, he said, understood why the rate increases had been happening.

“I think it’s more important that we be fiscally responsible for our citizens, rather than giving them a token $1.25 a month reduction on their sewer bill, and look at the long-term repercussions it could have,” Considine said.

Considine and Blackburn feared that by freezing the rates for 5 years, the city could be faced with an unforeseen repair or Environmental Protection Agency-mandated upgrade and not have the funds needed. Both commissioners said a 1-year freeze would be better and allow the city to address the issue again next year.

Brechon supported the 5-year freeze, she said, because a 1-year freeze wasn’t enough, and it would also contribute to a “confidence factor” that the city can handle what may come. She also recommended the city bring in engineers from Strand Associates Inc. to review the wastewater treatment facility.

Bringing in Strand was unanimously supported by the City Council.

“I don’t think it would be wise to lock in with the 5-year [freeze],” Blackburn said. “If you want to do it, do it for this year. Let’s get the survey done and go from there and make analytical decisions, rather than decisions upon emotion.”

The City Council also voted unanimously to approve the execution of an assignment, assumption and consent agreement with Allied Waste Transportation Inc. to take over the city’s garbage collection from Affordable Waste Systems LLC.

The change, made after Allied bought out Affordable, won’t affect garbage collection, city officials said.

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