RANTOUL — Utility rates will climb next year in Rantoul, but not as much as originally anticipated due to greater usage in the industrial sector.

For customers with all four village-operated utilities (water, wastewater, natural gas and electric), the average monthly total will climb from $175.54 the first year to $192.08 after five years. That is down from the originally anticipated $209 per month for year five outlined in July.

Only 25 percent of the village population — about 1,400 customers on the former Chanute Air Force Base — have village-supplied natural gas. The rest of the village is supplied by Nicor.

Mark Beauchamp, president of Utility Financial Solutions, speaking to the village board last week via Skype, said the original projections of a higher rate for electric service were based on a 2018 study using 2017 figures. But because of a great deal of extra demand in the industrial sector, no electric rate increases are recommended. Most of greater usage is due to the expansion of the Rantoul Foods pork processing plant.

“Revenues and cash balances were quite a bit higher than projected in 2017,” Beauchamp said.

A 1.8 percent increase had been originally recommended for electric customers.

The cash balances for electric are projected at $9.5 million in 2020 with slight decreases each year down to $7.2 million in 2024.

Residents, by far, pay the most of their total bill for electric usage. Of the $175.54 average total in year one, $91.37 of that is for electric usage, which will actually drop to $90.32 in year five.

By year, the four-utility total bill will increase by 2.1 percent in year one, 2.2 percent in year two, 2.2 percent in year three, 2.3 percent in year four and 2.4 percent in year five.

Beauchamp said, when making the recommendations in the earlier meeting, he considered several factors, including debt ratio, cash reserves, utility income, system depreciation and potential growth.

If approved by the village board at the Dec. 10 regular meeting, the increases will become effective next May.

Beauchamp recommended the board review the electric rate in two years. Trustee Terry Workman asked if the board can make that recommendation since he believes in the next two to three years the village will be seeing “significant growth.” He likely was referring to the construction of a new sports complex and its related growth.

Village attorney Ken Beth said the board can recommend the review, but the recommendation won’t be binding. He said the village board can evaluate the utility rates at any time.

Public Works Director Greg Hazel said any time a village has growth, there are capital expenses that will be incurred.

He said the next major capital improvement project will likely be “some form of force main upgrade to support the industrial customers. And the sports complex will (need) some infrastructure improvements to support it.”

Added Hazel: “Down the road I see some significant improvements at the wastewater plant as loads continue to grow, maybe in 15 years. We still have a couple of million gallons per day (of excess capacity) during dry flows. But it depends on what type of customer it is. If there were two or three more Rantoul Foods came on board, we’d be looking to change our treatment process at the plant.”

Taco Bell rezoning

The board is also expected to vote at the regular meeting on a planning and zoning commission recommendation to rezone the property at 629 W. Champaign Ave. from R-2 (single-family residential) to C-2 (general commercial) to clear the way for construction of a new Taco Bell restaurant.

The site, which most recently housed a used-car business, is located at the corner of Champaign Avenue and Malsbury Drive. An existing building will be demolished, and a 2,100-square-foot building will be constructed.

Village urban planner Chris Milliken said the owner, Chicago-based Buddy Bells Inc., after meeting with neighbors of the property, agreed to move the eatery farther away from the residential area and to alter its layout to reduce noise and lighting pollution and any other nuisance factors.

He said the owners want the new restaurant to be open by next summer.

Milliken said the developer has done a Phase 1 environmental study to deal with any tanks in the ground from the days when the property was used as a filling station.

Ambulance contract agreement

The board will be asked to approve a one-year service agreement with PRO Ambulance.

Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said the contract would not be for a longer term because there are some areas that village officials want to discuss with PRO representatives. He did not elaborate on those changes.

Trustee Sam Hall said he thought there were some issues with the service in terms of response time.

“Yes, that’s why we’re only asking for a one-year extension,” Eisenhauer said. “There have been some issues.”

He said PRO Director Bob Holloway was unable to attend the study session due to a personal matter. Eisenhauer said Holloway will be asked to speak to the board in January.

“There are still some issues we would like for him to address prior to us providing a longer-year contract,” Eisenhauer said. “It was important (for adoption of a one-year) extension last year so we could evaluate ... the concerns. We have done that now, and now feel it’s important for them to correct those before we make any long-term decision.”

Change method to property transfer

The board will be asked to approve a resolution of support for changing the method of transferring two parcels totaling 48.57 acres from the U.S. Air Force to the village. The two parcels are located at the southeast intersection of Perimeter Road and Titan Drive.

The University of Illinois is interested in the land and adjoining property for development of an autonomous and connected track in the southeast corner of the former Chanute Air Force Base.

“From an efficiency standpoint, what the university is discussing doing, and in discussions with the Air Force, the quickest way to transfer the property is through an economic development conveyance, which we already have in place,” Hazel said. “It would be transferred to the village with the expectation it would be transferred to the university.”

Hazel said the Air Force “is on board with this, and the university has indicated they are a willing partner in this.”

He said the land transfer to the village is anticipated to happen in March.

Sale of vacant lots

Eisenhauer said that other than two lots, the village wants to wait before deciding what vacant properties it wants to make available for sale to the public through its vacant lot program.

He said one resident has been “incredibly patient” about two properties he wants to buy on Steffler Street that the village will sell.

“Those are the only two properties at this time (that the village wishes to sell) to allow us time to complete the comprehensive plan, and we (can) identify whether to release or keep for our own personal use,” Eisenhauer said.

Redistricting plan

Eisenhauer also reported the village committee appointed to draw up a map to divide the village into representative districts has come up with two possible plans.

He said during the January study session, he and Milliken will give a presentation showing the two plans and provide input from the committee. Also in January, the village will hold a meeting at which the pubic can view the maps and make comments.  

The board is expected to begin its discussions on the redistricting in February and March with the final recommendation to come in April.

The redistricting was mandated after residents voted in November 2018 to make the change. In the past, board trustees have been elected on an at-large basis, with the top vote-getters elected regardless of where they live in town. Under the new format, the village will be divided into six districts, and candidates from the district in which they reside will be elected only by the residents of that district.

In the April 2021 consolidated voting, all of the trustees will be up for election from their district. Three of the trustees will have to be elected for two years and three for four years as decided by the village board. All six candidates plus the mayor and village clerk would have to run in the April 2021 election.

Afterward, the village trustees would have staggered terms.

The board also heard a presentation from Hope Wheeler of CliftonLarsonAllen, Champaign, on the 2019 village audit.

Wheeler said no improprieties were discovered.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com