Swansea racks up $4.5 million in debt, plus interest

By Jody Barr - bio | email

SWANSEA (WIS) - The bottom line on Swansea's water and sewer bills is on its way up, with possible 30- to 40-percent increases because the town is now more than $4.5 million in debt as of Monday.

Armed with a $3 million federal loan, Swansea bought new trucks, fire hydrants, water valves, water meters, restored its water tower, installed new water and sewer lines and renovated town hall.
The town has 40 years to pay the loan back. Swansea Mayor Ray Spires wanted to upgrade the town's water and sewer systems, so he opened negotiations with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a loan.

Spires says the town's systems were in immediate need of repair, and the project couldn't wait. But the loan means Swansea water customers are about to pay up. "They've really had a joy ride for quite a while with no rate increases," said Spires. "They don't like it, but it's like you going to the gas pump. You pay for gas going up each day, your electricity goes up, your groceries go up."

The mayor signed the loan on Monday. The payments will cost taxpayers $11,000 a month. By the time the loan's paid off in 2051, Swansea will have paid $5.6 million back to the feds. The interest alone will add up to more than the original loan.

"The town of Swansea can afford that," said Spires. "There's going to have to be some rate increases, but I don't think that the rate is the big thing, it's what the improvements are going to do in the future for the town of Swansea. That's the most important part."

"I think it's kind of arrogant for the council to think that they can go back to the constituents and just demand more money from them," said Councilman Ben Simons.

Simons, the lone vote against the project, says the town of 600 can't afford the new debt. Simons says the mayor should have fixed the system part by part, and spent what the town could afford. "They just want to spend, spend, spend and somebody's got to pay for it," he said.

Simons says it looks like the price tag will equal a 30- to 40-percent increase in water and sewer fees.

The new loan means the town of Swansea is now more than $4.5 million in debt. That works out to about $7,500 per resident to pay off the money Swansea owes.

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