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BICENTENNIAL DINNER LOCATION CHANGE: Inside at Five Points where it will be nice and dry! ... See moreSee less

BICENTENNIAL DINNER LOCATION CHANGE: Inside at Five Points where it will be nice and dry!

UPDATE: BICENTENNIAL DINNER LOCATION CHANGE: Inside at Five Points where it will be nice and dry!

ROAD CLOSURE: S MAIN FROM THE SQUARE TO CATHERINE for this fundraising dinner. Join in & start the Bicentennial Party SATURDAY JUNE 15. Event time is 4:30 but the ROAD CLOSES 3:45PM-8:30.
BTW- tickets $12 (pulled ) $8 ( )

(Note the closure extends past the Burton St intersection).

Thanks
... See moreSee less

UPDATE: BICENTENNIAL DINNER LOCATION CHANGE: Inside at Five Points where it will be nice and dry!

ROAD CLOSURE:  S MAIN FROM THE SQUARE TO CATHERINE for this fundraising dinner. Join in & start the Bicentennial Party SATURDAY JUNE 15. Event time is 4:30 but the ROAD CLOSES 3:45PM-8:30.
BTW- tickets $12 (pulled 🐷) $8 (🌭)

(Note the closure extends past the Burton St intersection).

Thanks

 

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BICENTENNIAL DINNER LOCATION CHANGE: Inside at Five Points where it will be nice and dry!

Jay Tuck

It's not only Friday - it's Flag Day. ... See moreSee less

Its not only Friday - its Flag Day.

 

Comment on Facebook

🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

Who's this guy? He's Bill.

Why's he blue? He's water.

Yep, he's your water bill. Look at those broad shoulders. He's been working out. That means he's bigger. He's taking a supplement called "fixed fee." Is he bulking up to kick sand in your face? No.

Well, then, what's Bill's problem and why isn't he treating everyone the same?
Like a lot of problems, this one started a long time ago and came from innocent beginnings. We'll take a walk through the seedy underbelly of water billing here, so grab some comfortable virtual shoes and walk with us:

(If you are looking for the short version, it's this - after lengthy discussion and prodding going back years, on May 6, the City Council agreed to charge a base $5 water and $1 sewer fee per month to fund infrastructure improvements. Like all things, it will increase in the future. But you aren't here for the short version, are you? A very long version follows.)

Back when Washington was a wild and woolly town, say about 1920, we put in a water distribution system. We were ahead of the curve for many Illinois towns that did not put theirs in until the New Deal made public works projects like water systems common. The original water mains were cast iron. The City still has about 24 miles of cast iron mains, mostly on the east end of town where 4" mains are common. These antiques account for about a quarter of the water system but about 2/3 of the main breaks. Why? Because cast iron mains only last so long. A good rule of thumb is about a century, give or take a few years. That means for cast iron buried in the 1920s, now as we reach the 2020s we're due for new pipes. That's the start of the story for what we call the "distribution" side.
You know if there is a distribution side, there must be another side. That side is "collection," which is a nice way to say "sewer," which we can't say anymore because its offensive. It's "wastewater." Here in the Central Kingdom, our wastewater generally runs through pipes to a wastewater treatment plant. Back in the 20s, distribution was new and collection was an afterthought. When folks did put in sewers, many times the clay pipes ran straight to Farm Creek or another low spot in the terrain. (As an aside, we note that Farm Creek runs downhill and we didn't follow the map all the way, but we know it heads toward East Peoria. Just sayin'.) OK- those wildcat sewers didn't do much good for community sanitation, so we put in a mid-century collection system, which at the time we could still call a sewer. The poo pipes started out clay and went through the gamut of materials all the way to modern plastic. Those pipes only last so long, and, you guessed it: some are near their end of life. Our City underground is a veritable hospice for pipes. We have over 5 miles of pre-1950 clay pipes (and they generally were not mapped, so we can't be sure there aren't more) and over 11 miles from the 1950s.

We'll now summarize a few decades: The City grew and added pipes. We charged property and other taxes that went toward operating the town, we charged water fees that are used only for the water system, and sometime after the Clean Water Act mandated separation of storm water pipes from poo chutes, we started charging for "collection." That was a fiasco, by the way. Anyone remember what a crazy concept it was to actually charge for sewer? People wanted to go back to septic systems until they costed them out. Along the way, rates did not keep up with costs. When water mains last 100 years, replacing them does not seem urgent. When you have a chance to pay for your new water treatment plant with money outside the water fund (to avoid charging more for water), but you don't add to rates to pay for eventual replacement, you set up a future need for capital. That's not all bad – sort of a "hydrate now, pay later" plan. Residents benefit under those plans until "later" comes. It's later (or "almost later," depending on how you look at it). Now for several years we've had City Councils and staff wrangling over how to address this pending need. Urgently over the past year or so, and sometimes heatedly, the discussion continued. To complicate matters, we know these pipes run underground, under streets, and digging them up requires digging up streets, which is a different expense and scheduling consideration. Ideally, we can coordinate replacement of collection and distribution with street construction. We can update (or in some cases, install) storm sewers. We can account for unlawful sewer connections that drive our storm surge at our wastewater treatment plants. In many cases, we are required to refuse to connect these new pipes to lead service lines that must be replaced by the property owners.

The heated discussions resulted last May with rate changes and infrastructure fees for both water and sewer. The different fees result from the legal need to separate water and sewer funds and from realization that some people are water customers but not sewer, or sewer but not water, or in the City or not, or have different rate structures based in ordinance. See, the arguments over water and sewer rates over the years resulted in compromises, so senior citizens or the disabled pay lower rates, some folks pay a reduced rate that used to be called "Circuit Breaker" and was designed to give essential service access to the disadvantaged, and some folks are water or sewer customers but live outside the City (they pay more). All of this affects rates and the "fixed fee."
Historically, the City of Washington's water rates have been lower than surrounding areas, particularly those served by private water companies. In fact, those rates could not sustain the systems as large parts of the systems came due for replacement. These adjustments (government code word for "increase") will account for the need to update systems over the next 20+ years. In some cases, other communities have chosen the same path Washington did for decades: not accounting for true replacement or maintenance costs in rates. Where those systems were installed in the decade after Washington's (remember the New Deal?), those communities will face the same challenges soon.

Next question: If there are water and sewer fees, why does the bill just say "fixed fee?"

Our billing system prints to postcards because postcards are cheaper to produce and mail than folded bills in envelopes. It's an old system. When we tried to add the lines for water and sewer fees, we found they didn't fit. So, we priced a new billing system. Then we sighed and kept the old one to save some cash. There will be a time we need the new system (hopefully not because of new fees), but for now we're staying with the cheaper version. The fixed fee on your bill is the combination of water and sewer fees. We called it "fixed fee" because we didn't have a quality thesaurus.

If you've read this long, you're obviously patient and interested. Ask your questions here and we'll get you an answer, or call the Water Department at 444-8292. The nice people there will answer your questions, probably without referring to poo chutes or making comments about East Peoria being downstream. If you ask here, well, all bets are off.

Thanks.
... See moreSee less

Who’s this guy?  He’s Bill.

Why’s he blue?  He’s water.

Yep, he’s your water bill.  Look at those broad shoulders.  He’s been working out.  That means he’s bigger.  He’s taking a supplement called “fixed fee.”  Is he bulking up to kick sand in your face? No.

Well, then, what’s Bill’s problem and why isn’t he treating everyone the same?
Like a lot of problems, this one started a long time ago and came from innocent beginnings.  We’ll take a walk through the seedy underbelly of water billing here, so grab some comfortable virtual shoes and walk with us:

(If you are looking for the short version, it’s this - after lengthy discussion and prodding going back years, on May 6, the City Council agreed to charge a base $5 water and $1 sewer fee per month to fund infrastructure improvements.  Like all things, it will increase in the future.  But you aren’t here for the short version, are you?  A very long version follows.)

Back when Washington was a wild and woolly town, say about 1920, we put in a water distribution system.  We were ahead of the curve for many Illinois towns that did not put theirs in until the New Deal made public works projects like water systems common.  The original water mains were cast iron. The City still has about 24 miles of cast iron mains, mostly on the east end of town where 4” mains are common.  These antiques account for about a quarter of the water system but about 2/3 of the main breaks.  Why?  Because cast iron mains only last so long.  A good rule of thumb is about a century, give or take a few years.  That means for cast iron buried in the 1920s, now as we reach the 2020s we’re due for new pipes.  That’s the start of the story for what we call the “distribution” side.
You know if there is a distribution side, there must be another side.  That side is “collection,” which is a nice way to say “sewer,” which we can’t say anymore because its offensive.  It’s “wastewater.”  Here in the Central Kingdom, our wastewater generally runs through pipes to a wastewater treatment plant.  Back in the 20s, distribution was new and collection was an afterthought.  When folks did put in sewers, many times the clay pipes ran straight to Farm Creek or another low spot in the terrain.  (As an aside, we note that Farm Creek runs downhill and we didn’t follow the map all the way, but we know it heads toward East Peoria.  Just sayin’.)  OK- those wildcat sewers didn’t do much good for community sanitation, so we put in a mid-century collection system, which at the time we could still call a sewer.  The poo pipes started out clay and went through the gamut of materials all the way to modern plastic.  Those pipes only last so long, and, you guessed it: some are near their end of life.  Our City underground is a veritable hospice for pipes.  We have over 5 miles of pre-1950 clay pipes (and they generally were not mapped, so we can’t be sure there aren’t more) and over 11 miles from the 1950s.  

We’ll now summarize a few decades:  The City grew and added pipes.  We charged property and other taxes that went toward operating the town, we charged water fees that are used only for the water system, and sometime after the Clean Water Act mandated separation of storm water pipes from poo chutes, we started charging for “collection.”  That was a fiasco, by the way.  Anyone remember what a crazy concept it was to actually charge for sewer?  People wanted to go back to septic systems until they costed them out.  Along the way, rates did not keep up with costs.  When water mains last 100 years, replacing them does not seem urgent.  When you have a chance to pay for your new water treatment plant with money outside the water fund (to avoid charging more for water), but you don’t add to rates to pay for eventual replacement, you set up a future need for capital.  That’s not all bad – sort of a “hydrate now, pay later” plan.  Residents benefit under those plans until “later” comes.  It’s later (or “almost later,” depending on how you look at it).  Now for several years we’ve had City Councils and staff wrangling over how to address this pending need.  Urgently over the past year or so, and sometimes heatedly, the discussion continued.  To complicate matters, we know these pipes run underground, under streets, and digging them up requires digging up streets, which is a different expense and scheduling consideration.  Ideally, we can coordinate replacement of collection and distribution with street construction.  We can update (or in some cases, install) storm sewers.  We can account for unlawful sewer connections that drive our storm surge at our wastewater treatment plants.  In many cases, we are required to refuse to connect these new pipes to lead service lines that must be replaced by the property owners.

The heated discussions resulted last May with rate changes and infrastructure fees for both water and sewer.  The different fees result from the legal need to separate water and sewer funds and from realization that some people are water customers but not sewer, or sewer but not water, or in the City or not, or have different rate structures based in ordinance.  See, the arguments over water and sewer rates over the years resulted in compromises, so senior citizens or the disabled pay lower rates, some folks pay a reduced rate that used to be called “Circuit Breaker” and was designed to give essential service access to the disadvantaged, and some folks are water or sewer customers but live outside the City (they pay more).  All of this affects rates and the “fixed fee.”
Historically, the City of Washington’s water rates have been lower than surrounding areas, particularly those served by private water companies.  In fact, those rates could not sustain the systems as large parts of the systems came due for replacement.  These adjustments (government code word for “increase”) will account for the need to update systems over the next 20+ years.  In some cases, other communities have chosen the same path Washington did for decades: not accounting for true replacement or maintenance costs in rates.  Where those systems were installed in the decade after Washington’s (remember the New Deal?), those communities will face the same challenges soon.  

Next question: If there are water and sewer fees, why does the bill just say “fixed fee?”

Our billing system prints to postcards because postcards are cheaper to produce and mail than folded bills in envelopes.  It’s an old system.  When we tried to add the lines for water and sewer fees, we found they didn’t fit.  So, we priced a new billing system.  Then we sighed and kept the old one to save some cash.  There will be a time we need the new system (hopefully not because of new fees), but for now we’re staying with the cheaper version.  The fixed fee on your bill is the combination of water and sewer fees.  We called it “fixed fee” because we didn’t have a quality thesaurus.

If you’ve read this long, you’re obviously patient and interested.  Ask your questions here and we’ll get you an answer, or call the Water Department at 444-8292.  The nice people there will answer your questions, probably without referring to poo chutes or making comments about East Peoria being downstream.  If you ask here, well, all bets are off.

Thanks.

 

Comment on Facebook

I really like the quality of the cities water. Soooo glad we done have Washington Estates water-yuk! That being said. I really hope they do not skimp on the water quality. My FIL is the water superintendent for his city and we have him sample and test our water regularly. And he said it’s always comes back pretty good. So we are checking on you! I don’t mind paying for the long run, but $6 a month from EVERY household is a lot! You better NEVER dig up my yard and leave it a shit pit like the last time my neighbor broke the shut-off. It took 2 yrs to battle the weeds that grew where you tore things up! I wish you would also adopt sewer metering like they do I Germantown Hills. They meter the water in the winter months and charge an average for the sewer in the summer. Because the extra water use in the summer is most likely outdoor use and not going into the sewer. And sewer treatment costs way more than just water.

Since I moved fro6 Wisconsin to Illinois I have lost over $3200 from new taxes. I'm sure the 1 cent tazwell tax will be on the ballot in perpatuity until enough people are to apathetic to vote it down. Did you know Washington has an approx $10,000,000 budget surplus? If that money is in one of the worst performing bond funds making only 3% per year, that surplus would make $300,000 per year in interest alone so why always ask for new money/taxes?

Thank you for City of Washington, Illinois for taking the time to write such a long, informative, thoughtful post.

Thank you. This was very informative.

Nicely written with a good sense of humor. Very interesting history of your water system! I do not live in Washington but love to visit and SHOP there!!!!

Nicely done and informative. Our homes need improvements too. I wish I’d plan ahead and budget like this.

I wondered why the “tech fees” went up (and now monthly vs bimonthly or quarterly) even as we were switched to automated meters that don’t need a meter reader to physically walk around to get the readings. It makes sense, but at the same time I would also expect that some of the water/sewer infrastructure cost would already be covered by the property tax bills that we already pay. Re the postcards for billing...can we offer an ONLINE billing/payment option that would both result in quicker and more timely payments, and both less cost to the city and more efficient for us to pay? Seems that could reduce costs at both ends.

Thank you for the post.

As an actual Bill, I gladly volunteer to go house to house reading meters for $5.50 each. I’ll even round it down to an even $5. It’s a cost savings for the citizens and an early retirement for me. Then we can remove that pesky tech fee 😀

Janice Graham Roe

I miss our city water! The tornado wiped out our house in the middle of town and now we're on a well. I wish you'd lay some pipes a little farther down Spring Creek! 💦 Nice story btw I read the whole thing. Written well.

So, I have a "fixed fee" to go with my " fixed income". As the Church Lady says "Isn't that special?!" 😜

Thank you and appreciate this post! P.S. Does reading this count towards hours for the Library’s summer reading program🙂

Nice explanation, but the part that gets me is the smoke we were given about the increase. If there is no end to the "Tech Fee" then it is not for the cost and installation of new meters that we were told. It is just a increase in the "fixed fee". That unlike this post is misleading. We do not have a choice in water/sewer service, I am always confused why it costs me twice as much to get rid of the water than it does to get the water. This just does not make any sense to me.

So, take your total water bill, divide by the number of adult users (2 little people count as 1 adult), then divide by 30 days (31 is too hard for me), you come up with your cost per day per person. Seems pretty good to me to have safe drinking water, water to cook and bathe with, and a very convenient way of getting rid of the waste, also known as poo.

We`d like to do some more renovations but with raising our taxes & sales taxes it`s pretty hard to find where our next penny is coming from. Of course city government doesn`t really care about the little guy. Lived in this town my whole life seen alot of good & bad - But lately government (city-state & federal) wants to take more from us. They just have to justify the tax increase lately.

so is $11 a month for water to start .... just checking .. thanks for the info!!! wasnt sure what that was 😳

City, County, and State taxing us to freaking death extremely outpacing any cost of living raise I get. Just tax me right out of Illinois. My grandma moved to Missouri, everything is lower and roads are better 🤷‍♂️ it’s no wondering people are leaving some probably just can’t afford to stay. I’m all for paying for quality but I’m not seeing it. See the following pictures

Brian Porter

So how does this new fee tie into this article where sewer and water funds were used to pay for roads? www.washingtontimesreporter.com/news/20190122/washington-wants-to-use-reserves-to-help-pay-for-ro...

It is not just about the $5 tax. It's about the gas tax of $.35/gallon, the $.06 plastic bag tax, the not so long ago the 2 % increase of the washington corp tax and on and on. Its death by 1000 cuts. How about Illinois looks itself in the mirror and come to grips that it has a spending problem!!!! Myself I have a 5 year escape plan to get out. One thing rich people can do is Move.

I'm calling tomorrow about my senior citizen discount. Add that to the fixed fee bs that we were never told about. If there is a discount, we should have been entitled to it for the past two years.....

Ooh let's all complain about a $9.85 increase lol not bad for no more flooded roads lol now if they could just fix the pot holes so I quit getting hit with $500+ random fees lmao

Why exactly do we get billed monthly? Quarterly billing option makes more sense and can save the City $$$ Just a simple observation

Starting a couple of years ago we went to paying water and sewer monthly instead of quarterly. We were given a song and dance about the monthly thing was better than quarterly. Everyone knows that printing bills monthly, postal fees monthly, and someone having to post money to accounts and running reports monthly cost more. Any person running any business knows that if an employee has to do a task monthly instead of quarterly it is more labor intensive and cost more. If I pay my auto insurance monthly I get charged a fee that if I pay it quarterly or semi annual I don't get charged extra. What spin will the city put on this question?

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