Area leaders oppose Mt. Vernon water system sale, propose local alternative

MT. VERNON — A group of area leaders have organized against a recently announced plan by the City of Mt. Vernon and are offering a local option to a plan to sell its water and sewer system to a for-profit corporation, Illinois American Water.

Michael Bullard, a 40-year member of the Bluford Village Board issued a press release Thursday night, introducing the Water-ConservationTeam of Mayors from Belle Rive, Bluford, Dix/Kell, Waltonville and Woodlawn, who joined together on February 17 out of concern about the potential system sale.

The group offered an alternative Thursday night, and asked for the opportunity to investigate the development of a Jefferson County Utility Cooperative that would be financed locally and would purchase, manage and operate Mt. Vernon’s utility system, bringing it back to viability.

Bullard says the most important part of the offer is that it would keep the system and its management in control of people who live locally, drink the water and would keep the revenues in the community.

He reminded people the four members of the Mt. Vernon City Council will have a second reading and final approval of the ordinance selling the system to Illinois American Water on March 2, and that the decision would affect nearly every citizen in Jefferson County.

According to Bullard, the Team of Mayors is asking for a 12 month delay in any further actions on the sale, as they see the privatization of Mt. Vernon’s system as a long-term threat to the financial stability of every water system served by Mt. Vernon.

The group fears a threat of grossly increase water rates and believes profits for Illinois American Water of more than $1 million a year would be siphoned from the area.

Bullard says the members of his group were shocked at the recent news, and claims the Mt. Vernon council met in secret for six months before making their intentions known on February 3. He noted water service is a major artery for residents of rural residents of outlying communities and villages and helps secure their future.