By DAVID LUCAS
The Homer Village Board is facing a question, whether to sell treated water and sewer services to a potential new business south of Homer.
The board members have been investigating this question for several months. I would like to share some facts on this matter.
1) How much water will be sold?
The business is asking for between 4,000 and 20,000 gallons of water per day. They have a similar facility in Indiana that uses 13,000 gallons per day with 300 people working in three shifts. The reason for the range is because they will not be using the same quantity of water when they start and have a smaller staff, as when they are in full production.
2) Can the village supply that much water?
We have the authorized capacity to pump 260,000 gallons per day from our two existing well fields. We currently use on average 90,000 gallons per day, leaving 170,000 gallons per day as surplus capacity. There is an adequate supply of water to meet the request.
Another critical element to consider is the capacity of our treatment plant to produce finished or treated water. Our plant has the capacity to produce 150,000 gallons of treated water per day. At the upper end of the company's request, the plant would be producing 110,000 gallons per day. There is an adequate capacity to treat water and meet the request. The village board would never do anything that would put the village at risk of running out of water.
3) What if there is growth in the community? Will we have enough water?
This is a very good question because we want our community to grow. Part of the desire of seeing this company establish itself in our area is to bring people and jobs to our town. If you take our current water sales of 90,000 gallons per day divided by the 520 households, you get under 175 gallons of water per household per day. If we were to add 50 new households, that would add just under 9,000 gallons per day. With the 20,000 gallons requested by the company, this brings the total requirement of water to 119 thousand gallons per day. This is still very manageable and would not put stress on any of our systems.
4) What will it cost the village to supply the water to this company?
The company has agreed to pay for the costs of installing the water and sewer lines. This would represent an investment of $1.3 million that the company is willing to give to the village. The village board would never do anything that would put the village at economic risk.
5) Can the village legally sell water to a company outside the village limits?
The village hired a special legal firm to study this question. The short answer is that it is legal. Other communities in the area have entered into similar contracts. Ridge Farm is one example. Information about the legal decision is available at the village website or at the village office. The village board would never do anything that would put the village at legal risk.
6) How much money will the village make on this sale?
Using the average daily water sale of 13,000 gallons, the village should see around $30,000 in annual revenue or a total of $900,000 over the life of the contract. In a time of declining water sales and pressure to raise water rates to cover increased cost, this becomes a significant water sale. It would be a benefit to the village.
7) Should the village be selling water to this company?
The village of Homer sells water to many businesses and residents. It has never been our policy to make value judgments as to who we will or will not sell water to. There are businesses in town that are engaged in perfectly legal activities that some people are opposed to. These people have very strong feelings about these businesses. It would not be proper for the village to make value judgments on these businesses, determining who gets water and who does not. Today it may be this company, tomorrow, it may be your company.
I have purposefully omitted the name of the company requesting the water. I hope it will help you see the facts of this issue devoid of the emotion. The company that made the request is Sunrise Coal. They want the water for their new underground coal mine southeast of Homer.
The group opposing this water sale is doing so because they oppose coal.
The purpose of the village board is to act in the best, long-term interest of the people of Homer. This water sale will do that. It will add much needed revenue to the water and sewer departments, and provide valuable water and sewer infrastructure to the village at no cost. This infrastructure can be expanded to increase the number of water customers south of Homer, thus expanding our customer base. The coal issue is separate and should be kept out of this discussion.
Whether the mine gets its permit to operate will be decided by the Department of Natural Resources. This is the state agency that has authority to issue permits for mines in Illinois. They will be holding public hearings before making their decision.
I trust this discussion has been helpful to you. You may always call the village office at 896-2521 for additional information.
Homer Mayor David Lucas can be reached at email@example.com.