Orion approves project financing

by Mindy Carls correspondent

Village of Orion trustees approved a formula for financing street and water projects during their regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 21.

Trustee Steve Newman said the finance committee estimates the Seventh Street renovation will cost $795,000. Replacing the water main on 11th Avenue from 10th to 13th streets will cost $262,000, and resurfacing the torn-up street will cost $110,000.

The total cost is $1.2 million, with 78 percent attributable to street construction and 22 percent to water projects, Newman said.

Sources include a $460,000 loan from BankORION, which would be repaid over five years at 1.7 percent interest, the trustee said. Payments would be $8,002 a month, with utility taxes covering $6,000, and general fund surplus $2,002.

The village has $235,000 in motor fuel tax revenue it could use for the projects, and another $123,000 in motor fuel tax revenue is available through Rebuild Illinois, he said.

Also, the general fund could contribute $206,000 and the water fund $163,000, Newman said.

Trustee Neal Nelson, chairman of the street committee, said the street department didn’t ask for a $110,000 bill resulting from a water project. He said paying that would eat into the money for other projects, and he added water and sewer can bill their customers and should bill enough to cover the costs of their projects.

Mel Drucker, the trustee in charge of the water department, said rates have never been raised to cover the cost of projects.

Nelson noted the village does not have firm figures for the cost of the projects, but Village President Jim Cooper said the village needed to have financing in place before going out for bids. Specific numbers will change.

The board approved the financing formula 5-1, with Nelson casting the only no vote.

Board members continued discussing a simplified telecommunications tax. The 5 percent tax on landlines and cell phones could raise $27,000 a year, which Cooper suggested could pay for sidewalks.

Newman said the money should go for big budget capital improvement projects, not for maintenance.

“If we don’t do this, the next generation will have to pay a big bill,” the trustee said.

Nelson said the proposed tax was the equivalent of raising the water bill $2.81 a month.

Trustee Mike Dunlap said he’s always paid a telecommunications tax wherever he has lived, and he favors it as long as it’s for capital improvements and not maintenance. Another trustee, Bob Mitton, agreed.

Drucker said in the next two to four months he will ask the board to approve a water rate increase. According to the trustee, it’s been 15 years since water and sewer rates were increased.

The board approved a property tax levy of $193,155. Village Clerk Lori Sampson said the board has not increased the tax levy for the last seven or eight years.

Newman noted the general fund balance had grown more than doubled from $471,666 in October 2011 to $970,765 in October 2020.