ELLIOTT — During Tuesday's village board meeting, it was announced that the village of Elliott is the recipient of a $500,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO).
The grant, applied for last August, will be used to fund the first phase of a project involving the replacement of water mains and water meters throughout the village. The village hopes to receive a second, equal grant from the same source to complete the project. An application for the second grant will be made in August 2020.
Debra Karch, a legislative assistant with state Rep. Tom Bennett’s office in Pontiac, was present to congratulate village officials. Karch said Bennett would have attended the meeting if not for him being in Springfield. Bennett did send a note of congratulations, which was read.
Karch said that Elliott was the only community within Bennett’s legislative district to receive this type of grant. Karch said the grant “celebrates the community and all your hard work.”
Village Board President Josh Rouley praised the process and told board members the grant “would not have happened without each and every one of you here.” Rouley cautioned everyone that there is “still a lot of work to be done” related to implementing the grant.
Trustees subsequently approved a standard administrative and engineering agreement with Milano & Grunlough Engineers of Effingham. Rouley said the contract will be paid from the grant and gives the engineering firm permission to pursue work related to the water project.
Rouley said expectations are for the village’s water quality to increase and water main repair costs to decrease when the project is completed. A third phase is likely to involve improving or replacing the village’s one water tower.
Second type of grant application made
Lee Beckman, an engineer and partner with Milano & Grunlough, was present for a 15-minute public hearing that preceded the meeting.
During the hearing, Beckman outlined a related grant application being made for $704,000 to the state’s Office of Rural Development, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Beckman said that, if successful, this grant will pay for materials or other costs not covered by the DCEO grant. Beckman said the grant could mean that “everything the village has will be new” in relation to water transport.
Beckman estimated that it could take up to three months for the village to learn whether the grant is awarded. Beckman said these types of grants are accepted and announced year-round.
Timeline to begin water project
Beckman said the first phase of the water project will not be fully decided until after Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) paperwork has been filed, a process he estimated could take up to six months.
Trustees and the handful of residents present seemed to want to do everything possible to begin the project no later than September 2020. If that start time does not work out, the project’s start could be delayed until spring 2021 due to winter weather.
Beckman explained that grant funds are released as project costs are incurred, but funding will pay contractor bills once the project begins.
Water operator Paul Theesfield said he had contacted the IEPA to get its perspective on several water-related questions the board had asked.
On the question of discontinuing polyphosphate use, Theesfield said an IEPA representative recommended it be continued. The chemical is designed to suspend rust within the water, and, if stopped, the restart process would be more problematic than it was in the past.
The IEPA official also recommended against cutting a sample from the water main to view corrosion that could be blocking water flow, Theesfield said. The IEPA’s advice was that with water mains as old as Elliott’s, pipe corrosion would be a foregone conclusion.
Theesfield said he had implemented the board’s request to take test samples at more than one location, and sites away from the pump house tested for lower levels of chlorine. It was decided to sample consistently at one location for two to three months and then to sample from a different location for the next time period.
Theesfield reported water use for December totaled 404,100 gallons for an average daily use of 13,035 gallons.
Garbage fees to increase
Rouley announced that he learned from Gene May, owner of Paxton-based Central Illinois Disposal & Recycling, that the village will be paying more this year for garbage hauling fees.
The exact amount of the increase, however, will not be known until May attends a future board meeting to outline the reasons for the increase, which he told Rouley are related to new laws.
The village currently pays all of the garbage hauling expense for the entire village.
Fees and practices reviewed
Trustee Ralph Erhardt, who also serves as meter reader for the village, said he was upset by advice given to a resident by a representative of EJ Water Cooperative of Dietrich, which does the village’s water billing.
Erhardt said the resident was told they could shut off their own water at the village connection. Erhardt said he believes that only he should do any water shutoffs outside a home.
Board members agreed, and Rouley said he will communicate the policy to the cooperative.
Meanwhile, Trustee Ed Godsey said he wanted to review the various billings from the cooperative “to make sure they’re not going over what the original (agreement) was.
Village Clerk Gloria Lynch restated the month’s charges as $135 for base service, $38 for postage reimbursement, and $113 in credit card fees. The village had previously paid a village resident $300 per month to do the water billing with added reimbursement or furnishing of postage and supplies.
All agreed the credit card fees were not anticipated, but they are probably a good thing for ease of payment, which is going well.
Rouley noted that being able to use a credit card “is a huge convenience” for residents.
Trustee Mary Young thanked Trustee Ed Godsey for his work on water issues and in filling potholes with gravel within the village. Young asked that fellow trustees also commit to helping with village projects.
In turn, Godsey thanked Ford County Highway Department workers who brought in hot mix to fill approximately five potholes along Main Street.
While noting that trustees have many commitments other than board service, Rouley also agreed to seek more participation.
“Now’s not the time to back off,” Rouley said in referring to the water project and other commitments.