Meeting in special session for about five minutes on Monday night, members of the Benld City Council voted unanimously to enter into a contract with the City of Gillespie to supply water for the next 40 years. A motion to accept the proposed contract was made of Ald. James Tilashalski, seconded by Ald. Mickey Robinson. In addition to Tilashalski and Robinson, Ald. Teressa Tucker, Ald. Lance Cooper and Ald. Dustin Fletcher voted in favor of the measure. Ald. Brian Frensko was absent. City Attorney Rick Verticchio and Mayor Jim Kelly also were in attendance.
During the regular monthly meeting of the council, council members met with HMG Engineer Justin Vonder Haar to discuss whether the city should continue to rely on Gillespie to supply water or contract with the City of Gillespie and invest in a water line to bring water from the Litchfield Water Treatment Plant to Benld.
“We met with the engineers and we listened to their recommendations,” Mayor Kelly told the BenGil Post. “A lot of the wording in the contract is from them.”
The contract approved by the Benld Council is subject to approval by the Gillespie City Council before it becomes binding. City attorneys from Benld and Gillespie reportedly worked on the contract language accepted by Benld.
Under the contract, if accepted by Gillespie, the City of Gillespie will sell water to Benld at a lower rate than it currently charges. Kelly said the new deal probably will not result in lower rates for the more than 700 Benld water consumers, but it will “stabilize rates” for at least the immediate future. “We won’t have to worry about having to adjust rates all the time,” Kelly said.
The new contract is effective as of Jan. 1, 2020. Beginning with the effective date, Benld will pay $5.29 per 1,000 gallons of treated water with a 500,000-gallon monthly minimum. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the price will drop to $4.71 per 1,000 gallons. The price will then remain at $4.71 per 1,000 gallons unless a rate increase is imposed under other provisions of the contract. Kelly said the city currently purchases in the neighborhood of two million gallons of treated water from Gillespie every month.
Future water rate increases are limited to base increases the City of Gillespie imposes on water users within its corporate limits (excluding increases imposed as a result of Gillespie’s current water infrastructure improvement project) or the cumulative rate of inflation as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor, whichever is less. The contract specifically protects Benld from paying rate increases to generate revenue to pay for the City of Gillespie’s water infrastructure project.
“They will have to show cause when they raise our rates,” Kelly noted.
Additionally, the contract requires Gillespie to supply Benld with copies of all water quality and testing reports filed with the Environmental Protection Agency—a provision that was absent from prior contracts.
“We’ve been working on this for a year and a half,” Kelly said. “This is really a better deal for all parties involved.” Kelly said the contract will allow the city to use existing infrastructure for delivery of water to the city and avoid the expense of installing a water line to reach Benld from Litchfield.