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City officials discuss water, electric rate hikes

<p>File Photo</p>

File Photo

With Naperville water and electric rates increasing in 2014, city officials briefed the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation recently on what the future holds for the utilities.

Thc cost of water and wastewater services will increase 6.78 percent, or $5.18 per month for the typical residential customer.

“It’s not our fault,” said Jim Holzapfel, Public Utilities director, Water/Wastewater, drawing laughs from the crowd.

Indeed, Holzapfel explained that 70 percent of Naperville’s water and wastewater costs are related to the expense of buying Lake Michigan water from the DuPage Water Commission, which gets it from the city of Chicago.

For the coming year, Chicago’s rates will increase 15 percent and the Water Commission will ask for a 17 percent hike, pushing Naperville’s water rate up. But a flat wastewater cost will keep the total increase at 6.73 percent.

Naperville’s average bill for the typical home will be just under $77 per month.

Holzapfel said the department has several infrastructure projects underway, one being the ongoing lining of the city’s sewers that will protect against leaks.

In a typical year, Naperville will spend $2.2 million on lining sewers, but this year the cost will be $4.6 million.

“Moving on we’ll be able to keep the rates pretty flat,” Holzapfel said, but cautioned that other challenges loomed, especially stricter EPA guidelines in treated sewage discharged by the city into the DuPage River.

The city’s electric rates will increase by 2 percent May 1, 2014, as approved by City Council in early 2013.

Mark Curran, Public Works director/Electric, said that the 2 percent increase would be repeated in 2015 and stressed that it was consistent with the electric rate study of 2010.

Curran presented numbers showing that the average annual outage that could be expected for customers was at an all-time low of just over 15 hours for the year 2012, and he said that it would be possible to make that standard again after all the numbers were in.

Olga Geynisman, Deputy Director of Utilities, electric, noted that as recently as 2000, the average outage figure was over 40 hours, and attributed the improvement to ongoing conversion to automation.

“It’s really paid off pretty well,” she said.

The department has completed the installation of slightly more than 58,000 smart meters in the city’s Smart Grid Initiative, but the continuing delay of the ePortal continues to plague the project. It was originally scheduled to be operational by summer 2013, and is a vital part of the initiative that allows residential and business customers the ability to actively monitor their energy usage.

The problem is one associated with the particular vendor the city hired and Curran said that while he couldn’t put a time frame on completion, it would certainly be in the next calendar year.

“They have got to get the system working on a regular basis,” he said. “We want to make sure we have confidence in it.”

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