Number of trees in city’s fall planting program drops; homeowner questions surcharge increases for water, sewer

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Residents participating in the city's fall tree planting program will pay $50 per tree, an 82 percent discount from the per-tree cost in the low bid. Each tree is about two inches in diameter. | Photo courtesy of Trees for Tomorrow

QUINCY — Quincy’s fall tree planting program won’t be as big as it has been in previous years.

The Quincy City Council voted 10-3 Monday night to authorize the purchase of 40 ornamental and shade trees from Leffers Landscaping and Nursery, Inc., for a total cost not to exceed $14,000. Leffers will plant the trees and guarantee the trees bud out in the spring.

City officials received two bids from nursery companies to buy and plant of 50 ornamental and shade trees on city rights-of-way. Leffers submitted the low bid of $17,211, but the bid package allowed for the city to reduce the number of trees purchased based on the availability of funding. 

The cost per tree for the city is $344.22, an increase of about $40 over last year, City Planner Chuck Bevelheimer said.

Residents will pay $50 per tree, an 82 percent discount from the per-tree cost in the low bid. Each tree is about two inches in diameter. Bevelheimer told aldermen eight residents already have expressed an interest in buying a street tree before aldermen approved the program. 

Alderman heard a report from Bevelheimer about the city’s two TIF (tax increment financing) districts. The 12-block east TIF district has grown from $6.6 million in 2011 to $8.2 million in 2021, an increase of 24 percent. The 25-block west TIF district started with $5.8 million in 1999 and has now grown to more than $13.5 million — a 133 percent increase.

“It’s more than doubled, which is exactly what we hope TIFs do,” Bevelheimer said.

Mike Farha, R-4, questioned Bevelheimer about the expenditure of $112,153 in TIF money — the largest expenditure of the past year — with D&L Excavating for sidewalk work along Jersey between Fourth and Fifth.

“Can you name one block, or one half-block, of a sidewalk in Quincy that was worth $112,000?” Farha asked.

Bevelheimer said the average cost for a streetscape runs around $400,000 to $500,000 “if you do the full meal deal” with pavers, streetlights, curbs, gutters and drainage.

“When you can pour concrete for a lot less than that, it seems ridiculous,” Farha said. “I’m sorry, I’ve just gotta be honest. It doesn’t seem like we’ve done anything to the downtown that justifies $112,000 for half a block of sidewalks.”

“You approved the agreement when it went through (the City Council),” Bevelheimer said.

“Yeah, when we approve an agreement, there’s a trust,” Farha shot back.

“The engineer’s assessment was provided to you at the time,” Bevelheimer replied.

Aldermen heard the second reading of an ordinance establishing a $9 surcharge on each residential utility bill. They will vote on the ordinance next week. The surcharge is higher for customers with larger water meters, such as commercial and industrial customers. The monthly charge for water and sewer for a residential customer would increase 56 percent.

Tim Bichsel spoke to aldermen during the public forum at the beginning of Monday night’s meeting. He bought the former Berrian School, 1327 S. Eighth, in 2019 and is converting it into a home. He said he never pays more than $70 a month for water and sewer at his current home at 200 N. 18th.

“When we went to turn on the water (at Berrian), I was advised that I would have to pay about $210 per quarter for water,” he said. “That surprised me, because I wasn’t paying near that much for a residential address. I was advised that since the water valve at Berrian was a two-inch valve, I would have to pay the $210. I’ve been swallowing that for three years now, paying that bill every month.”

Bichsel said his definition of a surcharge is a charge to cover the administrative costs of running a water department, with all other costs absorbed by per unit use of water.

“Nine dollars per resident sounds about right to me for a surcharge, but $61 for a two-inch valve seems exorbitant,” he said. “I found out today that if you’ve got a 10-inch valve, you pay $917 a month. You can’t tell me it costs $900 more to deliver water to a 10-inch valve than it does to a five-eighths inch valve.”

Aldermen approved:

  • A $10 lease agreement with Refreshment Services Pepsi of Quincy for a recycling drop-off site at 1121 Locust for a three-year period beginning Jan. 1, 2023. 
  • Appointing Kathi Dooley to the Washington Theater Commission board. 
  • Spending $172,342 with Rush Truck Center to buy a 2023 International HV507 Tandem Axle Chassis with a stainless-steel dump body. 
  • Spending $62,090 to buy two 2023 Ford Ranger 4×4 extended cab trucks from Morrow Brothers Ford of Greenfield. 
  • An ordinance amending the district map to change 2626 S. Eighth from R1A (single-family residential) to M1 (light industrial).

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