City of Sycamore officially approved for IEPA loan to replace 120 lead water service lines

IEPA loan, project agreement one vote away from becoming reality

Sycamore Public Works Director Matt Anderson talks during a Monday, May 3, 2021 City Council meeting at Sycamore Center downtown.

SYCAMORE – Months after the City of Sycamore applied for an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency loan to replace privately owned lead water service lines, city public works staff received word the state has officially approved the $1.7 million forgivable loan.

Sycamore Public Works Director Matt Anderson said Monday the award of the loan was contingent on it being forgivable and the city now will have to verify its exact terms.

“Once that’s set, we’ll start notifying residents,” Anderson said.

The Sycamore City Council unanimously voted 8-0 Monday night to sign the IEPA agreement for the $1.6 million loan — which includes 100% principal forgiveness — and to execute a $1.5 million agreement with contractor N-Trak Group LLC of Loves Park for the project during its Monday meeting.

Anderson said the city has a few conceptual areas in mind for the 120 service line replacements — namely wherever the city doesn’t have water main work planned in the next five to seven years, per the city’s 2019 water master plan.

Essentially, the city is not looking at areas that would involve tearing up newer streets, he said. Anderson, however, declined to disclose exact street names at this time, citing the planning process still being in the early stages.

“We’re trying to stretch that the best that we can,” Anderson said.

Sycamore City Engineer Mark Bushnell confirmed Monday the criteria for the IEPA loan to be 100% forgiven is for all of the loan to be used on just lead water service line replacement and to have targeted locations pre-identified to the IEPA.

Sycamore Acting City Manager Maggie Peck said Monday the IEPA loan has 0% interest and the $1.6 million amount is all principal.

Sycamore city officials have been eyeing the $1.6 million loan from the IEPA for months. On Nov. 1, the Sycamore City Council gave a first-round OK to solicit a contractor to replace 120 lead service lines.

There is no defined timeline yet for replacement, Anderson said Monday. He said he hopes the work — along with water main replacement work — gets done this spring or summer.

“So we’ll be busy,” Anderson said.

On top of the IEPA loan, the Sycamore City Council greenlit on Sept. 20, then made city ordinance on Oct. 4, a plan where homeowners seeking reimbursement after replacing lead water lines will receive a lump sum check cut to them directly instead of a utility bill credit.

The reimbursement program gives a $1,000 credit to homeowners whose service line replacement would not involve roadwork. Property owners also could receive 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.

The City Council also approved in November 2020 a $6.90 water bill base fee that would go toward city funds for water system improvements. The city created that funding source after creating a water master plan in 2019 addressing city underground water main improvements — including main breaks, water quality and fire flows — totaling $11.25 million.

This story has been updated to include Sycamore City Council action from its most recent meeting as of 8:15 p.m. Monday, Dec. 20, 2021.

Daily Chronicle news reporter Shane Taylor contributed to this report.

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