ELLIOTT — Water remains the topic of interest at Elliott village board meetings, although the mood is generally more positive now that the board is moving forward with improving the water supply rather than just repainting the water tower’s exterior.

The turnout of residents at Tuesday night’s regular monthly meeting was 18, a reduction from recent meetings in which 25 or more residents attended.

Cost to cancel painting

Mayor pro-tem Josh Rouley announced that after a telephone conference last month, Viking Painting of Omaha has agreed to reduce the fee assessed to the village for the cancelation of its contract for the repainting of the water tower.

The cancelation fee was reduced to $23,000, down from the $28,000 figure presented to the village last month.

Rouley said much of the cancelation cost “couldn’t be helped” because the firm had incurred labor and material charges on the village’s behalf in preparation for the scheduled spring repainting project.

Rouley told fellow board members that efforts to reduce the cancelation fee “covered all angles.” Trustees unanimously approved the expense.

Water grant application

Rouley said it was now clear that the next step for the planned installation of new water mains in the village is to proceed with an application for an infrastructure grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity that would pay $500,000 of the project’s $600,000 estimated cost.

Lee Beckman, a professional engineer and partner with Milano & Grunlough of Effingham, was present to emphasize the importance of collecting data for the grant through a residential survey. Beckman will handle the grant application after receiving information from the village.

Beckman said 75 percent of the village’s 130 households must participate in the survey in order to meet grant requirements. That percentage means survey takers will need to reach 98 households.

“It’s time for you all to step up,” Rouley urged residents.

A credit on a future water bill may be offered to express appreciation for survey cooperation.

Rouley took names of residents present who volunteered to help with the door-to-door survey effort. The short survey will ask four basic questions, including the number of people residing at each address and whether the household’s income is above or below a certain amount.

Beckman said other data helpful in establishing a health need for the grant would include letters from residents describing problems with water quality and photos of water problems such as discoloration.

The grant application is due Aug. 31, and Beckman confirmed that only about 34 grants are awarded annually.

It is possible the village would also qualify for a second-year grant of another $500,000 if it is awarded a first-year grant. The second-year grant could pay most of the cost for a new water tower, which would increase the town’s admittedly low water pressure.

The board unanimously approved proceeding with the grant application.

If the village is unsuccessful in receiving a grant, Beckman’s firm will not charge for engineering services. Rouley said that if the grant application is unsuccessful, the board would then need to have a “different discussion” of what to do next.

New water billing considered

Eric Emmerich, business development coordinator for EJ Water Cooperative of Dietrich, reviewed water-billing services the cooperative could provide.

For $1 per household per month, the cooperative would provide water-billing services and payment options that would include credit and debit cards or automatic bank withdrawal — all services currently not available.

Diana Ehlers currently provides water billing and collection services, for which the village pays her $300 per month.

Rouley said he has discussed the possible change with Diana Ehlers, who is moving from the village at a later date. Rouley said the potential change will be placed on the agenda for approval at the next meeting.

New board members

Three board vacancies were filled by appointment during the meeting.

Vacancies occurred during the April meeting for a variety of reasons. Trustee J.B. Daughenbaugh resigned due to a family move to Gibson City, while Rouley’s seat became vacant after he was appointed as mayor pro-tem. Trustee Jerald Harris told previous mayor Russell Ehlers that he was not going to return to board service after leaving abruptly and angrily in response to remarks made by resident Ruth Reiners.

Rouley said he was pleased to have interest shown by former trustees, so he appointed Ed Godsey, Jarrod Holmes and Mary Young to fill the board vacancies.

The three appointments were unanimously ratified by the three current board members, all of whom were previously appointed by Ehlers. It is expected that all appointed members (i.e., the entire board) will need to stand for future election to remain trustees.

Other business

Following the treasurer’s report by Cheri Daughenbaugh, the board approved the first of two annual payments in the amount of $3,850 for patrol of the village by the Ford County Sherriff’s Office.

Another of the approved paid bills was the monthly charge of $1,715.80 for garbage hauling by Central Illinois Disposal of Paxton. Daughenbaugh confirmed that residents are not billed for garbage pickup, which represents a monthly savings of more than $13 per household.