Water plans clogged

Blueprints for Paris-Chrisman line still in place, but now financing revision is needed

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CHRISMAN – The plan for the City of Paris to build a pipeline to Chrisman and sell water to the northern Edgar County city has hit a snag.

Andy Keiser of Fehr-Graham Engineering & Environmental discussed the recent development during the Chrisman city meeting Monday, Aug. 5. Fehr-Graham does engineering work for Chrisman.

Originally, Paris was to apply for the loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at 1 percent interest to build the whole pipeline and Chrisman was to repay Paris for the part of project north of the Horace-Brocton Road. The particular loan being sought has a history of the EPA forgiving up to 70 percent of the amount to a cap of $2 million.

“The bad news is the EPA has changed its position,” said Keiser.

According to Keiser, the EPA loan forgiveness is still available at 80 percent up to a maximum of $800,000. That change, he said, will significantly increase the cost for Chrisman.

He recommended Chrisman apply directly for an EPA loan to build the pipeline starting at the Horace-Brocton Road.

Francis Associates is handling the waterline project for Paris and company principal Bob Colvin said Paris will continue with the plan that was originally intended to supply water to The Equity’s expanding agri-business operation at Horace.

The loan interest charged to Chrisman will be 1.5 percent instead of the 1 percent available to Paris. Keiser said even at the higher interest rate, the loan represents a more affordable approach for Chrisman. He calculates Chrisman’s annual payments to the EPA will be approximately $15,000 per year as opposed to the $12,000 the city would have paid to Paris under the original plan.

“You are still getting 60 percent back,” Keiser said.

Chrisman water commissioner Rodney Wolfe urged his fellow commissioners to approve Fehr-Graham taking over the northern Edgar County portion of the project and submitting the appropriate paperwork for the city. He noted Chrisman applying for its own loan at 1.5 percent interest has always been an option but having Paris do it all at 1 percent had advantages when that opportunity existed.

Keiser noted much of the preliminary work Francis Associates has done on this project is still viable and Fehr-Graham will work closely with the Paris engineering firm to assure a smooth transition. He said the immediate goal is to get Chrisman’s paperwork for the EPA up to same level where Paris is.

The EPA will not announce the loan awards untilJanuary but Keiser does not anticipate any problems with securing the funding.

“The EPA is interested in getting this funded because of the problems in town,” he said.

Chrisman water does not always meet the EPA standards and the city has worked for many years trying to find a new water source or tweaking the filtration system to keep the water in compliance. Nothing has offered the permanent solution like buying water from Paris and taking the Chrisman city wells offline.

The commissioners approved Fehr-Graham representing Chrisman and applying for the EPA loan.

Another long-standing issue of what to do about the increasing number of dilapidated and deteriorated buildings in town was back before the city council.

Commissioner Brian Haddix said he recently made an effort to travel every street in town and compiled a list of objectionable properties. His list of addresses filled four pages in a notebook.

The problem is not unique to Chrisman and like other communities the city has a process for condemning and razing such properties but it is expensive and money is not always available. Such a tactic often results in a city owning, and maintaining, vacant lots.

Many derelict properties in Chrisman, although abandoned by the owners, are technically still in private hands, preventing the city from acting until after completing a cumbersome legal process. Other properties are available through the county’s tax agent, and many have liens placed against them because city workers have mowed the lots.

Mayor Dan Owen suggested encouraging city residents to buy the vacated properties and demolishing them by forgiving any liens the city may have on a property and to further sweeten the enhancement the city will pay for the first 40-yard dumpster needed for the demolition.

Owen said by doing this the city is only out the $750 for the lien and the cost of a dumpster as opposed to several thousand dollars in demolition costs.

“It helps the new property owners, and it greatly helps us,” said Owen, adding such properties will go back on the tax rolls.

Wolfe supported the idea of forgiving liens for mowing or overdue water bills to help a new owner acquire property. He had some reservations about the dumpster plan saying if somebody acquires an old building with the idea of converting it into a rental property that person might also want the city to supply a dumpster.

The council approved the plan to forgive liens and pay for one dumpster when a citizen acquires one of the properties on the official condemned list and demolishes the building on the lot.

Haddix informed the council of a complaint about free-roaming cats leaving feces in flowerbeds and other decorative planting areas. The city ordinance allows residents to have a maximum of three dogs and three cats but the animals are not allowed to roam and must be maintained on the owner’s property.

Police Chief Jordan Hale said part of the problem is the large number of feral cats using the old and empty buildings for shelters.

No immediate solution presented itself to the council.