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Jacksonville Ill., Water Project Earns Praise and $3 Million in Debt Forgiveness

The Jacksonville Utilities Department serves as a model for other water utilities, and has been nominated by the state for a wastewater award.

by Nick Draper, Jacksonville Journal-Courier, Ill. / September 16, 2016

(TNS) -- It’s been a good month for the Jacksonville Utilities Department, with a nomination for a wastewater award and the forgiveness of $3 million on a project loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Mayor Andy Ezard said he received word the city has been nominated for the Best Operated Wastewater Treatment Works by the Illinois Association of Water Pollution Control Operators.

“The city is thrilled to be nominated,” Ezard said. “This shows that we take our utility department infrastructure very seriously and that starts with our employees, who do a great job day in and day out.”

According to correspondence from the association, the wastewater facility headed by Superintendent Jack Cosner was nominated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s division of water pollution control. The category for which Jacksonville was nominated consists of 180 facilities statewide, only five of which were selected.

The awards are designed to emphasize the relationship between adequate wastewater treatment and clean receiving waters, as well as encouraging communities to run effective wastewater facilities. An inspection team will visit Jacksonville’s facility before a winner is named in April.

The facility was nominated in 2003-04 and 2005-06 as well as received a plant safety award from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in 1996.

Ezard also found out the city will be receiving $3 million in principal forgiveness from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency as an additional subsidy. This will further reduce the cost of a new water treatment plant project projected to cost $34 million.

“The city of Jacksonville is competing with all other low-interest loan recipients in the water fund for these principal forgiveness dollars,” said Reggie Benton, president of Benton and Associates. “You competed very well, quite obviously. What I would leave you with is the result of the grant that you got and it’ll actually result in a total savings for the city of Jacksonville’s water customers of almost $5 million by the time you add the interest savings over the 20-year life of the loan.”

The $5 million figure includes a $1 million Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant the city received last year. Benton said such savings are uncommon for these types of loans.

“This is definitely a feather in our cap that the Illinois EPA saw fit to award us this letter of forgiveness,” Ezard said. “We are doing things the right way in Jacksonville. We’ve stepped up from a serious situation in 2011 and taken the steps to remediate that and move forward with a new water treatment facility. I think it shows that we cooperate and have a good working relationship with the IEPA.”

©2016 the Jacksonville Journal-Courier (Jacksonville, Ill.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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