URBANA - Everyone must really be looking forward to this new sanitary district user fee increase.
Not a soul appeared to protest, send an angry letter or even pick up the phone to vent over the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District's plan to raise user fees some $10 a year over the next three years.
?Not a one,? said Director Dennis Schmidt at the close of a public hearing Tuesday morning at the district's Urbana headquarters.
With the formality of the hearing out of the way, the district's three trustees are scheduled to vote on the increase at February's meeting. The 30-cent rate increase will then go into effect in February 2004 at 10 cents a year until the rate is $1.38 per 100 cubic feet.
The current sanitary district residential bill, which comes every two months to residents of both cities, is now $16.33, or $97.96 a year.
Under the new fee schedule, that bill will rise to about $141 a year by 2006.
The last increase in the district's fee schedule was in 1998, phased in over three years. Before 1998, the last increase was in 1987.
User fees pay for the district's operations and maintenance.
The district also recently enacted higher connection fees for new users, mainly single-family homes. Last May, the connection fee rose from $450 to $805 and will rise again in May 2004, to $1,067.
Those fees help finance debt service on low-interest state loans the district is using to pay for $49 million worth of expansion and updates to its two treatment plants. Among other things, the installation of new sewer mains on the southern edge of Champaign will, along with a new interchange at Curtis Road and Interstate 57, be the key to future growth of that area.
With the southwest treatment plant already on the state's watch list, improvements there also will add treatment capacity.
Schmidt said renovations at the plant, largely having to do with remote monitoring, will allow the district to further reduce staffing costs. Five years ago, the district had 72 employees.
The district now employs 58, and by the end of 2005, staffing could be down to 50 people.