A hearing on settlement approval has been set for next month in a class action alleging the Village of Swansea charges St. Clair Township residents higher sewer fees than Swansea residents.
The hearing is set for Feb. 19 at 9 a.m.
On June 5, 2015, plaintiffs Robert Trentman, Daniel Varady and Wallen filed the complaint through attorneys John Hipskind and Brady McAninch of Hipskind & McAninch in Belleville against the Village of Swansea. St. Clair Township was added as a defendant in a Dec. 7, 2017 second amended complaint.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs allege the Village of Swansea renegotiated a contract in May 2014 to provide sewer services to an unincorporated area of St. Clair Township, which consists of more than 3,100 township residents and landowners.
In exchange for the sewer services, the township residents and landowners were mandated by Swansea to pay sewer fees “far in excess” of the fees Swansea charges its own residents for the same services, the suit states.
“This practice of discriminatory pricing is not only blatantly unjust but is also prohibited by Illinois law,” the complaint states. “These discriminatory fees are unreasonable, unjustifiable, were enacted for profit, fail to promote the general welfare of the public, violate Illinois law and the Illinois Constitutional rights of the plaintiffs’ and the proposed class.”
The plaintiffs claim the defendant is currently charging township residents $32.34 per month and an additional $3.22 for every additional 100 cubic feet of water usage while Swansea residents are charged $24.80 per month and an additional $2.84 for every additional 100 cubic feet of water usage.
“This fee clearly and unfairly targets a predominately low-income area of St. Clair,” the suit states.
The plaintiffs allege St. Clair Township “shirked its duties and responsibilities owed to the Plaintiff and the Class to provide sewer services at a nondiscriminatory rate.”
The plaintiffs allege the township owes a duty to them and continues to violate its duty “allowing the Village to collect discriminatory sewer fees leading to a windfall for the Village.”
The plaintiffs accuse Swansea of taking advantage of the township residents by “promulgating, charging and collecting illegal and discriminatory sewer fees with a reckless disregard for the property and rights of the citizens and landowners of St. Clair Township.” They further accuse the defendant of offending notions of fair play and justice, the complaint states.
The plaintiffs claim there has been public outcry and numerous requests to lower the fees, but Swansea has refused to renegotiate.
The class was certified on May 11, 2017, consisting of “all sewer customers of the Village of Swansea who reside or own land in St. Clair Township but outside the Village of Swansea and have received a bill from the Village for sewer services following the rate change occurring on or about March 1, 2015.”
The plaintiffs ask for the future sewer fees exceeding what Swansea residents pay to be enjoined “in order to prevent future discrimination at the hands of the Village.”
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 15-L-335