Volo lays out cost for water project

VOLO – Connecting the village of Volo to Lake Michigan water will raise property taxes and water bills for residents.

Under the plan, the villages of Wauconda and Volo would hook into the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency and build a shared pipeline most of the way and then sections to each of the villages.

Currently, the village gets its water from a deep aquifer, but the draw on the reservoir is more than what experts estimate is sustainable.

If the village continues to grow as expected, it would mean a 400 percent increase in Volo’s water demand by 2040, Peter Stoehr, a village engineer for Manhard Consulting, told a group of residents at Tuesday’s Village Board meeting.

Also, the water contains radium and barium, which has to be removed to meet safety regulations. About three times a week, the backwash containing the
contaminants is trucked out of the village to be disposed of.

“Obviously, this method that we’re currently using is unsustainable,” Stoehr said.

To build the pipeline, the village would take out an estimated $9.7 million general obligation bond, which would be paid for by increasing property taxes by about $140 a year for the owner of a $200,000 property for likely 30 years.

Taxpayers wouldn’t see the increase until they get their tax bill for 2015 or 2016, either after construction starts or finishes, Stoehr said.

Property owners also would have to pay a tax to pay off a joint water agency debt. That increase wouldn’t take effect until water starts flowing and would expire in 2018.

This increase would cost the owner of a $200,000 property $30 a year.

Businesses and residents also would see an increase on their water bills. The rate would increase to $7 for every 1,000 gallons of water from $5.50 for every 1,000 gallons of water. The village currently has a minimum of 5,000 gallons a month, which means a minimum increase of $15 every bimonthly billing cycle.

The rate increase would be phased in with 50-cent increases each year starting next year. A 50-cent increase was already planned for this year independent of the Lake Michigan water project.

In all, the owner of a $200,000 house would pay a minimum of $273.18 extra a year starting in 2016.

The estimates are a worst-case scenario, Village Attorney Nancy Harbottle said. Trustee Bruce Buschick added that the board hopes to use economic development to pay off the bond sooner.

Unlike at an earlier meeting where residents expressed fears that they wouldn’t be able to afford the increase, residents seemed generally matter-of-fact Tuesday evening.

One resident said he was in favor of the switch but thought that putting more of the cost on property owners with higher-valued properties was unfair. A gallon of water should cost the same for everyone, he said.

Another resident, Lee Nejberger, also wanted to know whether the village expects any other projects in the next couple of years.

Sewers will have to be installed in the historic section of town, along Volo Village Road, in the next 10 years, Harbottle said.

The board tries to put aside money each year to fund most capital improvements, Buschick said, so that the board doesn’t have to take out a bond.

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