An Evanston lead service line replacement, as seen in a recent city presentation. (City of Evanston photo)

A few dozen Evanston residents who took out interest-free city loans to get rid of lead pipes carrying water to their homes are in luck. 

The Lead Service Replacement Loan Program, which started in 2017, offered assistance to residents with lead service lines that lived in areas impacted by the city’s water main improvement projects. 

During water main improvement projects, the city automatically replaced lead service lines under public property, but residents were expected to cover the cost of replacing service lines under their own property. The loan program made it easier for homeowners to replace pipes made of the toxic metal, and since its start, 39 residents have taken out a loan. 

Of the 39 residents, 36 are still paying back their loans – but not for long. 

On Jan. 10, the City Council passed Resolution 2-R-22, which states that on March 1 the city will forgive the remaining loan balances, which currently total $137,134.27.

Resident Andrew Scott took advantage of the program in 2018, when the city offered him a loan to have his private service lines replaced during a water main improvement project on Colfax Street, where he lives. Scott and his wife immediately agreed, and they have been gradually paying off the $4,800 loan ever since, by paying an additional $100 a month on their water bill.

On learning his debt will be canceled in March, Scott exclaimed, “That’s amazing!”

The Evanston resolution follows a mandate in a state law passed this summer that requires municipalities to cover more of the costs associated with replacing lead service lines, including private service lines. 

Due to the mandate, which took effect this month, Evanston is obligated to cover the cost of replacing both public and private lead service lines in areas undergoing water main improvement projects, eliminating the need for the city’s loan program. 

The state’s mandate does not require the City of Evanston to forgive loans taken out in the past, but city staff decided it made sense to drop the remaining loan balances, given that the city will cover such costs moving forward, said Darrell King, the city’s Water Production Bureau Chief.

King, who helped draft the resolution, said the 36 residents have not been informed of the city’s loan forgiveness yet, but will receive a notice a little closer to March 1.

“If I was one of [the 36 residents], that would be awesome news to start the year off,” he said. 

Conversations about forgiving the loans started last year, and King said he was happy to see the resolution passed.

Taking a loan in 2018 was the right thing to do, and having the loan forgiven is a nice surprise, said Scott. “I don’t know how to feel,” he said. “I’ve never had a loan forgiven.” 

 

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  1. I am in Evanston/Skokie, and the Village of Skokie just informed residents on Springfield Ave. and many other areas that they would need to cover the cost of the lead pipe replacement on each property from the street to a home. This article makes it seem like this shouldn’t be happening.

  2. It seems wrong that the three people who paid off their loans in a timely manner are being penalized for being diligent and I think the city should reimburse them, as well.

  3. Interesting and generous gesture by the city. What does the city plan to do for the residents who did the right thing, replaced the lead service line under their property, paid for it but didn’t take advantage of the loan program? Any resident that replaced their lead pipes should be eligible for some level of reimbursement if the city is going to forgive the loans of those who participated in the loan program.

    1. Interesting and generous? How about “Due to the mandate, which took effect this month, Evanston is obligated to cover the cost of replacing both public and private lead service lines in areas undergoing water main improvement projects, eliminating the need for the city’s loan program.” It’s the City of Evanston that should have “did the right thing” and cleaned up their hazardous mess in the first place.

  4. Interesting and generous gesture by the city. What does the city plan to do for the residents who did the right thing, replaced the lead service line under their property, paid for it but didn’t take advantage of the loan program? Any resident that replaced their lead pipes should be eligible for some level of reimbursement if the city is going to forgive the loans of those who participated in the loan program.