If you pay a water bill to the village of Brookfield every two months, brace yourself for the bill coming in September.
On July 26, village trustees voted 5-0 to increase water rates by 18.5 percent, from $11.68 per 1,000 gallons to $13.84 per 1,000 gallons to pay for water infrastructure upgrades over the next 50 years, including a systematic replacement of the village’s oldest water mains.
The average residential water customer, according to an analysis provided by the village’s finance director, Doug Cooper, would see their bimonthly water bill increase by about $17, or roughly $102 per year.
Those water customers paying minimum bills would see a bimonthly increase of about $11, with an annual increase of about $65.
The rate increase will go into effect on bills issued after Sept. 1, said Cooper, and will result in the village collecting an additional $940,000 annually to fund water main replacement projects.
“This is a very long-term plan,” said Village President Michael Garvey. “We said specifically it was a 50-year plan and even after 50 years we won’t have all of the oldest water mains replaced, but we do have to start at some point.”
Back in March, Village Manager Timothy Wiberg approached the village board about increasing water rates to address Brookfield aging water infrastructure. At that time, he and Village Engineer Derek Treichel explained that 51 percent of Brookfield’s water mains, 31 miles’ worth, were at least 100 years old. Another 20 percent were at least 60 years old.
Unless the village began replacing the oldest mains systematically, they said, the village risked widespread main failures resulting in emergency repairs that would be more expensive to fix.
The village’s present water rate generated only enough money annually to fund replacing 1,400 feet of water mains a year. At that rate it would take 116 years to replace water mains already 100 years old, Treichel said in March.
By raising it to the new rate, the village could replace more than the 100-year-old mains over a 50-year period. The new rate would also allow the village to replace the radio transmitter units that sit atop each residential and commercial water meter.
Installed in 2007, the “meter transmission units,” as they are called, are nearing the end of their useful lives and need to be replaced. It’s estimated that replacing every meter transmission unit in the village will cost $2.5 million.
Cooper said he and Treichel will be meeting in the next couple of weeks to begin completing an application to obtain a low-interest loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help accelerate water main replacement at the outset.
Funds collected from the increased water rate can pay the debt service on both the meter transmission unit replacement and an EPA loan, should the village succeed in getting one.
The applications are due in to the EPA in January, said Cooper. However, the village will likely include the meter transmission unit swap-out project in its 2022 budget, along with some sort of water main replacement initiative, even if officials are uncertain about getting a federal loan.
“We’re just going to fund it and start making these improvements,” Garvey said. “Myself and staff are well aware that if there’s any federal infrastructure money that offsets any of this, it’ll accelerate the pace of the program. But we can’t wait for the federal government to take any potential action.”