Those pesky citizens and their rights stymy East Moline sewer bond plan
It seems that a group of citizens opposed to the Triumph Pork plant have helped get far in excess of the number of signatures required to put a multi-million dollar sewer bond issue to a vote.
Of course, East Moline mayor John Thodos doesn't like that. The pesky opponents have made it harder for him and others to slip the massive project and the huge taxpayer costs asssociated with it past the public largely unnoticed. Now those same folks are educating the residents again and actually giving them a chance to have a say in all of it.
Apparently this is bad news for Thodos, who maintains that stopping the bonds now will cost the city more money.
Officials are upset with this petition drive. Why? Well, because not enough of the petition circulators live in East Moline, even though there is absolutely no requirement that they do.
The circultors want a public vote on whether East Moline should borrow $39.5 million to pay for water and sewer system improvements. The city wants to sell bonds, and increase water and sewer rates to repay them.By the looks of comments left on the story in the D/A, people aren't buying what Thodos is selling.
However, city officials are asking why people who don't live in East Moline are so concerned about how the city will pay for the utility improvements, which are mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Petition circulators argue that where they live doesn't matter -- and that they gathered more than 3,200 signatures from registered East Moline voters, way more than the 2,107 needed to put the issue to a public vote, said circulator Doug Riel, who lives in unincorporated Rock Island County.
Mr. Riel was adamant that he and others organized the effort because they want East Moline officials to be held accountable for not billing water and sewer rate increases on outside municipalities that aldermen approved in 1998 and 2003.
Mr. Riel said he helped a few East Moline residents collect enough signatures because they helped him in his fight against Triumph Foods' proposed pork processing plant.
"Everybody wants to say, 'This is a Doug Riel thing.' It's not a Doug Riel thing," he said.
Mayor John Thodos is convinced that accountability isn't the real reason. He said most of the people who circulated petitions are known pork-plant opponents.
"I am against the pork plant," Carole Stoner, of East Moline, said. "I won't deny it. But this particular thing cannot be connected to the hog plant. (City officials) need to be responsible."
Another circulator, Bob Zesiger of Silvis, offered a different reason. Mr. Zesiger, who is also a Silvis alderman, said he believes the borrowed money will go to Triumph.
"We're all out there because this all started with Triumph," Mr. Zesiger said. He said local business leaders don't dig into the background or look into the problems of the hog industry.
East Moline aldermen had approved selling bonds at roughly 4 percent interest, but will have to scrap those plans due to the referendum question on the February primary ballot.
Instead, the city will have to borrow money next month at a higher interest rate to pay for sewer repairs that need to be done now. That in turn means higher water and sewer rates than expected, the mayor said.
If voters approve the $39.5 million bond sale, then the city could begin borrowing money at a lower interest rate, which could mean lowering water and sewer rates, Mayor Thodos said.