MORRIS – Natural disasters, budget uncertainties and unexpected projects are weighing heavy on the Grundy County contingency fund.
The contingency fund is a budget line item reserved for unplanned expenditures, generally resulting from unforeseen projects, problems or disasters.
Since Nov. 30 – the beginning of the fiscal year – the county has had more than a few surprises. Grundy County already has spent more than $11,000 of its rainy day money, according to Grundy County Treasurer Marcy Miller.
“It seems like we keep dipping into those funds a little more every meeting,” Grundy County Board Vice President David Welter said during Monday’s Finance Committee meeting.
Most recently, the county was asked to promise $20,000 for a buyout project involving flood-damaged homes near Minooka and Tabler roads.
The finance committee was pressed again Monday when residents from Prairie Oaks Subdivision asked the for much-needed funding to complete a sewage project.
The 37 residences in Prairie Oaks – a subdivision near Coal City – have experienced sanitary complications for years and are under an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency mandate to fix the problem.
“You’ve got a health issue here,” Bob Breisch, chairman of the Grundy County Zoning Board of Appeals, said during the meeting. “If these people continue and try to live with this, they’re not going to be able to. It’s an issue that’s going to come back.”
Fixing the problem will cost about $925,000 total and will involve connecting the subdivision to Coal City’s water treatment plant.
Currently, Prairie Oaks uses its own sanitary plant, but for several reasons, the plant is not properly functioning and is causing problems for the environment and homeowners.
One homeowner said this has been a problem for almost 15 years and is the result of problems in the original construction.
“The smell of the sewage was so intense, that when I drove out of the subdivision, it took about 15 to 20 miles just to get rid of the smell,” Breisch said of a trip through Prairie Oaks last July.
The village of Coal City was awarded a $329,000 community block grant in 2011 to help pay for the project. The remaining $596,000 will be funded during the next 10 years through a tax agreement between the homeowners and the village.
“The village is going to collect full-rate taxes, with all the money going towards paying back that $596,000 balance on the total project,” Prairie Oaks resident Jerry Cyrkiel said during the meeting. “But that’s an average of $1,200 to $1,500 per home, per year increase, and we still need to come up with $105,000.”
The $105,000 is needed for the decommission and tearing down of the existing sewage plant, which would not be covered by the community grant or tax increase. If the homeowners cannot come up with the money, the project cannot move forward.
The residents are asking the county to pay all of or a percentage of the remaining $105,000, which would have to come out of the contingency fund.
“I don’t want to say no to them, as I’m sure none of us do,” said committee member John Roth. “But we could say yes to this and have it work well, or we could say yes to this and have a shortfall in funding that would really bite us later.”
Residents at Monday’s meeting said they worked with Coal City Village Administrator Matt Fritz to search for additional state, federal and homeowner grants to help fund the project, but to no avail.
“The county has a interest in this,” Breisch said. “You’ve got about $4 million in [equalized assessed property value] in that subdivision to think about.”
The committee discussed contributing $20,000 to the project, leaving the remaining $85,000 to be paid by the homeowners.
Finance Committee Vice President Chris Balkema said the county intends to help, but needs to explore all funding options before drawing from the contingency funds.
“There’s a lot of hardship all around,” Balkema said. “So we need to be prepared.”