November 17, 2014 – Ed Bierschenk
The City Council Monday took final action on an 18-year bond issue that could provide the city with some $30 million to pay off debt and possibly provide some surplus revenue next year.
The bond issue will be paid off from money brought in from increased water rates charged to Chicago Heights under the remainder of a 20-year agreement with Hammond. While Chicago Heights earlier took Hammond to court over increases in its water fees before reaching an agreement, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said the rate charged by the city is 85 percent of that charged by Chicago.
“Water is only going to get more expensive,” McDermott said.
Next year, McDermott said the rate being charged to Chicago Heights city will increase from $2.20 per 1,000 gallons to $3.24 per 1,000 gallons. The increase will not impact Hammond residents bills, he said. Lansing’s rates are locked in currently at a lower rate because they negotiated a flat rate under their agreement with Hammond.
In order to get a better interest rate on the bonds, casino revenue will be used as a back up in what officials indicate is the unlikely occurrence that water revenue can not cover the costs. McDermott speculated that the revenue brought in my the bonds could not only pay off the city’s debts but for the first time in years provide the city with a surplus of $1 million or more.
While McDermott sees steady increases in water rates, he said that casino revenues have been on the decline partly because of other opportunities for gaming become available for residents in Illinois.