O’FALLON, ILL (KMOV.com) – Tensions are growing between the mayor of O’Fallon, Ill. and residents over the possibility that sewer and water utilities may be privatized.
Mayor Gary Graham said privatizing the utilities would save the city money and be financially lucrative. Some residents are concerned about a loss of jobs, slower response times, and possible rate hikes once a private company takes over. Citizens aired their concerns at a city council meeting Monday.
“It’s a business, look to see if I can keep taxes down for my citizens and what’s the best process. Period,” Graham.
The city is currently gathering bids from 20 companies. Several residents who attended Monday’s meeting said they are unsure where the money from the sale would go, or if their rates, which are currently lower than surrounding cities, would change.
“Right now we have a good response time. With another company are we going to have the same response time? I don’t see that happening, especially if they are not local,” said resident Nathan Hubbard.
Graham said he also heard concerns from those in the public works department who are concerned that their staff may be let go if the department is outsourced. Graham said he can’t guarantee if those workers would be retained but said he believes they will be.
“I represent 30,000 people, not 35 workers in the sewer and water department. I represent them too, but which is more?” Graham said.
Companies will have 90 days to submit a proposal before the city council makes a final decision.