October 28, 2021

Joliet OKs acquisition of Fairmont water system

Joliet has agreed to take over the water and sewer system serving the unincorporated Fairmont area.

The City Council voted Tuesday for the acquisition, including associated agreements that will provide $3.5 million in federal grants through Will County to upgrade the system to Joliet standards.

Fairmont residents will be charged a nonresident rate, which is about $5 higher than what Joliet residents pay. The average bill in Joliet is about $67 a month.

Joliet, however, is considering an increase in water and sewer rates.

The council on Tuesday also heard a presentation on increasing the rates by more than 6% a year over the next three years until the average rate for residents would be about $80 a month.

The City Council has not made a decision on whether to increase rates. But staff are looking for a decision by October, so that any rate increase could be implemented Nov. 1.

The transition of the Fairmont system to Joliet also is slated to occur Nov. 1, so those residents could see an immediate rate increase.

Fairmont residents, however, were worried rates could skyrocket if their water and sewer system was turned over to a private, for-profit utility, said DeLinda Herod, president of the Fairmont Community Partnership Group.

“We knew the rates could be very much out of control,” Herod said. “We were told they could go up 60% or more.”

Herod said she now pays about $65 a month for water and sewer service.

Lockport Township now manages the water and sewer system. Fairmont residents approached Joliet nearly a year ago when Lockport Township considered selling the system to Aqua Illinois.

Utilities Director Allison Swisher said the Fairmont system needed upgrades before Joliet would consider taking it over. The system was built in the 1970s without major upgrades since then, she said.

Under an intergovernmental agreement, Will County will provide $3.5 million over six years through Community Development Block Grants to fund the upgrades.

Swisher said future repairs and upgrades to the system in Fairmont would be funded from revenue the city receives through water and sewer rates, the same way Joliet funds maintenance throughout the city.

“There will be no difference between a Joliet customer and a Fairmont customer, except they’ll pay a nonresident rate,” Swisher said.

Water and sewer rates are based on usage. But Swisher said the average nonresident rate amounts to about $5 a month more than what Joliet residents pay.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News