Tag Archives: William Grabarek

Board clarifies fire ordinance

Change makes it easier to understand what is allowed
by Sandy Kaczmarski
Elburn—Backyard campfires can still be enjoyed around Elburn, thanks to some modifications to the village’s burning ordinance.

The board voted to clarify language on the size allowed for back yard fires, allowing the fuel pile to be no larger than 27 cubic feet and no more than two feet in height.

Trustee William Grabarek said he was concerned that the previous language of the fire being no larger than 3’x 3’x 3’ was somewhat confusing and restrictive.

“How do you measure a fire?” Grabarek asked. “By the flame, the spark, or the smoke? There’s no way to measure that, so you measure the fuel.”

The 3’x 3’x 3’ limitation is used by many other municipalities and is the acceptable standard in the Elburn and Countryside Fire Protection District’s rules and regulations.

“I felt that the strictness (of the ordinance) could be eliminated by going with a straight volume with a height limitation,” he said.

He said he suggested the 27 cubic feet because that’s what Kane County allows. He said it would still allow folks to have reasonable recreational fires in their back yards.

Grabarek referred to the book, “The Last Child in the Woods,” which addresses “nature deficit disorders,” the disconnect between today’s high-tech youth and nature.

“Kids sit six hours a day in front of a screen now, and their range for exploring the natural world has been cut down to about one-sixth what it was before,” Grabarek said.

“This would allow people to have a little campfire in the back yard, roast marshmallows and make s’mores,” he said. “Or just sit around and listen to it crackle and connect with nature in that way.”

The vote was unanimous. Police Chief Steve Smith said there have been no issues with runaway recreational fires in the village.

Elburn board avoids water rate increase

Scaling back project list preserves rates at least through end of year
by Sandy Kaczmarski
Elburn—It looks as if residents won’t have to face a water/sewer increase—for a while, at least.

Superintendent of Public Works John Nevenhoven told the Elburn Village Board Monday that to complete all the projects on his wish list, water rates would have to increase from $5 to $15 a month.

“Realizing that is not going to be practical, I’ve identified two of the five (projects) that would absolutely, positively have to be done this coming year,” Nevenhoven said.

The two projects he recommends completing this year will cost $126,000, something he says can be done within his current budget.

One of the projects is to rebuild and service well No. 3 at a cost of $65,000. The well was last serviced in 2002, and recommendations are that it be serviced every six or seven years.

“With something like a well, we’d much rather do it on our terms than on the well’s terms,” he said, meaning to repair it now before it breaks down.

The other project is interior service on the North Tower, coming in at $61,000, which was last serviced in 1996. The tower doesn’t need to be serviced as frequently as the well, but Nevenhoven said it’s at a point where repairs need to be done.

As the board discussed expected balances at the beginning of the fiscal year May 1, Village Administrator Erin Willrett pointed out an ordinance that requires the budget to be reviewed every year, but that the board is not tied to a fiscal year.

“We could start the review of water/sewer capital and look at the list of projects throughout the year, and make that recommendation effective as of January 1,” she said.

Trustee Jerry Schmidt said that with the current budget, it appears that three projects could be approved right now and without having to consider raising rates.

Village President David Anderson said the board could go ahead with the two projects suggested, and wait until January to decide to do another project if funds are available.

“I kind of like that,” he said. “I think this gives us a better perspective.”

Anderson said the board has a “fiduciary responsibility to maintain and operate the water and sewer systems.”

Trustee William Grabarek agreed, and said by deciding next January, the board would have eight more months for more careful planning.

“It would give us a better ability to look at our budget come January on these capital projects and make a decision at that time,” he said.

Nevenhoven is moving ahead on the two projects already budgeted for, and Willrett said she will reintroduce these budget concerns next fall so the board can better assign priorities and take a look at the rate structure.

Customer fee vs. higher water-sewer usage

Solution still uncertain for service’s budget shortfall
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Elburn trustees do not all agree that a customer fee is the best or only way to raise water and sewer revenue.

Three trustees suggested Monday that the village should raise usage rates.

“At least we’d be saying, ‘We’re going to charge you for the true cost of the water and sewer, not charge you a surcharge,’” trustee William Grabarek said.

Village officials in February proposed a combined water and sewer customer fee of $20 monthly in addition to the existing usage fees, and since have proposed lowering the base fee to $10, beyond usage charges.

The usage rates have been the same for many years—$2 per cubic foot (cf) for sewer and $2.69 per 100 cf for water, which some trustees think is too low.

“We have underpriced our water and sewer for a long time,” Grabarek said.

Grabarek suggested raising the combined water and sewer usage rate from $4.69 to $7 per 100 cf.

For more than a year, water and sewer operations have cost the village nearly $29,000 more per month than the village collects in water and sewer revenue. Village officials’ goal is for water and sewer service charges to match the cost of providing them.

“At $7 (combined water and sewer usage rate), we would make up the deficit in two years,” Grabarek said.

Charging that rate also would increase revenue in the water and sewer capital fund to pay for future system improvements, Grabarek said.

If the village raises usage rates, it would encourage water conservation, trustee Ken Anderson said.

Grabarek said seniors, single people and other low users would not pay as much under the higher rate as they would if the village imposed the customer fee.

In response to Grabarek’s rate-hike proposal, Village President Dave Anderson said, “An increase like that for high users is going to be prohibitive.”

Another idea for changing water and sewer fees that trustee Jeff Walter supports is to raise usage rates and to impose a temporary customer fee to build up the water and sewer capital fund.

Walter asked village staff to determine this week how much water and sewer bills would increase for certain households under the various proposed fee scenarios.

The Village Board will continue its discussion of water and sewer charges during the Committee of the Whole meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, March 8, at Village Hall.

What area villages charge
Maple Park
Water: Minimum bill of $26.76 every three months for up to 6,000 gallons, plus $3.84 for every additional 1,000 gallons

Sewer: $32.28 minimum for up to 6,000 gallons, plus $5.38 per 1,000 gal.

Elburn
Water: Minimum monthly bill of $5 including $3.60 per 1,000 gallons for water ($2.69/100 cf)

Sewer: Minimum monthly bill of $5 including $2.67 per 1,000 gallons ($2/100 cf)

Sugar Grove
Water and sewer: $15.50 customer charge per month, plus $2.75 per 1,000 gallons for water, and $2.76 per 1,000 gallons for sewer