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Town will apply for grant to offset rising sewer rates

Income survey needed

May 12, 2010 | 08:45 AM
Lyons — Town officials haven't given up on finding ways to stop skyrocketing sewer rates, according to Town Supervisor Jim Shimeck.

The Town Board approved a letter of interest for a Community Development Block Grant offered by the state Department of Commerce.

The grant could be put towards the $4.8-million wastewater treatment plant upgrade, which is planned to be funded by raised sewer rates.

"As you know, with the upcoming sanitary wastewater treatment plant, people in the service area are going to see sizeable rate increases," Shimeck said. "We've been trying to do all we can to gather monies. I know Country Estates (Sanitary District) has done a fantastic job with grants which is going to help them quite a bit, but specifically for the Lyons 2 Sanitary District, we've had a lot of problems because of the income level of the district."

He said Lyons Sanitary District Commissioner Jim Deluca tracked down the possible grant and asked the board to try to obtain some of those funds.

"This is something the town has to apply for since the districts themselves can't apply and are not eligible," Shimeck said.

In March, Lyons Sanitary District Commissioners announced that on the June 15 sewer bill, the current $138 quarterly sewer rate will increase to $198. Because of the proposed wastewater treatment plant project among other factors, commissioners project the quarterly sewer charge will increase between $260 and $270 in 2011.

They are financing the project with a $2.7 million Clean Water Fund Loan through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Country Estates is paying about 35 percent of the costs through a $1.45 million Wisconsin Rural Water Construction loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Residents within that service area voiced their discontent at a March Lyons Sanitary District meeting and asked for alternatives.

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At the time, town and district officials said they were running out of options because the town would not be able to turn over sewage and treatment to Burlington or Lake Geneva districts without just as much or more cost.

Shimeck also said in March the town looked at updating an income survey to see if it would be available for various grants, but in 2000, the average household income was $75,000.

"The only way we could get the income survey redone is if we had a major loss in jobs for manufacturing workers or there was a tornado or some sort of devastation," he said.

However, on Monday, Shimeck said the town would be able to perform the income survey by itself.

"Another income survey has to be done and I know Country Estates had one done a few years ago for grant money they've received," he said. "Instead of just looking at Lyons 2 Sanitary District, we're going to look at the entire sewer district, including Country Estates together with Lyons Sanitary and also a service area in Springfield."

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The Town Board approved about $1,500 for costs of the income survey. That money may be reimbursed to the town if a grant is received.

Shimeck said the town has volunteers for some of the work, including mailing, putting together spreadsheets and gathering information.

"The county has helped us, Country Estates has been helping us quite a bit and Jim Deluca has been a big part of this," he said.

The town's best bet for grant money would be if the income survey came back with more than 51 percent of respondents having a household income considered low to moderate.

According to the 2000 Census, the median household income in Lyons was $55,741 compared to the nation's $41,994.

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The last income Survey Country Estates Sanitary District took part in, about 66 percent of respondents in the service area had a low to moderate household income.

Other requirements include a clear financial need which can be demonstrated by high utility rates, the project must be a capital expenditure and project construction must begin no later than three months after the official notification of the award, weather permitting.

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