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Local

Rock Falls planning nearly $10 million in water upgrades

Money would come from EPA loan program

ROCK FALLS – The city put plans in motion to make nearly $10 million in needed water system improvements.

The work would include building about 31,000 feet of new water main and surface restoration work throughout the city. The estimated cost of $9.67 million, which includes engineering, will force the city to borrow money. That money is likely to come from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

At its Dec. 17 City Council meeting, an ordinance was passed that allows the city to borrow up to $14 million from the EPA’s Public Water Supply Loan Program.

The water main upgrades would be done at various times, some in conjunction with upcoming road projects such as Third Avenue and Dixon Avenue.

While no timetable for the work has been set, new rules for how EPA grants and loans are administered makes it necessary for municipalities to plan ahead.

“The programs give us permission to apply for EPA water funds for the next 5 years,” City Administrator Robbin Blackert said. “If we don’t get preauthorization now, we’ll have to wait another 5 years.”

The loan program also offers forgiveness on up to 80% of the amount borrowed, but the forgiveness levels change every year.

“We don’t have to apply right away, but if we can get 75% forgiveness, we should try to get it,” Blackert said.

The 20-year loan would be repaid from Water Department revenues. There are no plans at this time to raise water rates to help make the payments.

The city’s ordinance includes a reminder that residents can petition to request that the improvements and loan agreement be put on the ballot for the Nov. 3, 2020, general election. The petition would have to be signed by 10% of the city’s registered voters, which would be a minimum of 548 signatures.

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