Check reimbursement for residents’ lead service replacement gets greenlight by Sycamore council

Staff expected to bring back changes for Sycamore City Council vote during Oct. 4 meeting

A fire hydrant outside of the Sycamore Center, the building that houses the City Council's chambers, on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021 night in downtown Sycamore.

SYCAMORE – With the greenlight of the Sycamore City Council, Sycamore homeowners seeking reimbursement after replacing their lead water lines could soon receive a check cut to them directly instead of a utility bill credit if they wish.

The City Council previously approved the residential lead service line replacement program during its June 7 meeting. Sycamore acting City Manager Maggie Peck said during the Monday meeting that the program gives a $1,000 credit to homeowners whose service line replacement would not involve roadwork and a $2,000 credit for replacement that would involve roadwork due to the water main being on the opposite side of the street from the house.

“So it was our intent to give them the credit back,” Peck said. “Once they fill out their application, got approval, had the work done, pay their bill and submitted for reimbursement, we would give them a credit on their utility account.”

Peck said “that seemed to work,” with the city having four residents who “took an application and performed the work at this time.” However, she said a resident recently indicated they would prefer to just receive a one lump sum check from the city of Sycamore instead of the utility bill credit.

After talking about the possible change with aldermen and staff, Peck said city officials “think it might be in the best interest of everybody” to cut a check for the reimbursement instead. She said the change was considered in “thinking of the residents and their financial need.”

“This is just for consideration tonight,” Peck said. “If I bring us back as an amended ordinance, I would like to reach out to the four residents who have already participated the program and give them a credit for whatever is remaining on their bill, write them that check for that difference, if that is in accordance with you. So tonight, I’m just looking for direction and would like to bring something back on Oct. 4.”

According to city documents, the city created a water master plan in 2019 that addressed short- and long-term needs required “to meet consumption demands of the community and regulatory compliance.” One of the goals of the plan was to continue to “identify and inventory private lead service lines and assist residents with replacing their lead water services.”

“While the city is responsible for water mains, city code ... identifies the property owner as the responsible party for all repairs for or replacement of water service pipes from point of connection to the city water main to the building,” staff wrote in the documents.

City officials wrote in the documents staff has identified more than 220 lead services.

“However, over 4,800 private connections remain unknown,” city staff wrote.

Fourth Ward Alderman David Stouffer said during the Monday meeting he thought the proposal was “a great idea.”

“My direction is to bring it back,” Stouffer said.

Stouffer said the proposed change “falls in line with some other things that we do already,” including the city’s sidewalk and façade program.

“It makes it very clean,” Stouffer said. “The people who do the work get paid for it upfront right away. They don’t have to wait for credits to come around. It just brings some continuity to how we approach things and ultimately, at the end of the day, people get their money back instead of having to wait for it.”

Stouffer said he encourages people to apply for the city program “if they feel like they have some outdated pipes and are looking for some help.”

“The help is here for them,” Stouffer said. “So stop in, ask about it, get the information and apply.”

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