Lake in the Hills village trustees ponder selling portion of water main system

LAKE IN THE HILLS – The village tabled selling its unincorporated water main system south of Algonquin and Pyott roads Thursday, amid residents’ concerns about how the proposed sale to Central States Water Resources will affect their service.

The Village Board unanimously agreed to table a vote of the sale at its Thursday meeting, and agreed to wait until more information could be gathered.

It is unclear whether rates will increase for residents under the new company, Public Works Director Dan Kaup said. If the system is sold, the company would go in front of the Illinois Commerce Commission, similar to any other private utility such as ComEd or Nicor Gas. The commission would look at the cost of operating the system and then set the rates residents pay.

Rachel Zastow, a resident of unincorporated Algonquin, asked trustees to wait before voting until the company can provide the plans it will bring to the commission. Trustee David McPhee motioned to table the vote.

“More specifically, [residents need to] know exactly what the pluses and minuses involved are,” McPhee said.

The village was generating $30,000 a year from the system, according to village documents.

“[The main reason we are selling] is to eliminate the liability of the village of owning a system that does not turn a profit,” Kaup said.

The water system, along with fire hydrants, must be replaced, which is expected to cost $1,793,357.

The water main system could be sold for $1 to Central States Water Resources, a private water and wastewater utility company. The company would take control of the maintenance and upkeep of the system.

Residents have been paying a quarterly $6 water main replacement fee to fix the main since May 2002. Each customer has paid $372 since its inception, Kaup said.

Because of this, village staff members recommended returning 10 years’ worth of the fee to each property owner, costing the village about $20,880.

Jim Wilson, a resident of unincorporated Algonquin, said neighbors purchased their homes based on having city water, and he worries how it will affect their property value.

“You’ve done the least amount of maintenance in our section of the water system; you’ve taken all of our money. The system is crumbling apart, and you want to sell us for $1,” Wilson said. “I promise you all that every ‘I’ and every ‘T’ in whatever contract better be dotted and crossed, because us as a whole are going to fight this like hell.”

The same source of water will be supplied to homes. The village will match up to 75 percent of the sale rate to incorporated residents going forward.

A hearing was held Tuesday for customers to discuss the change with trustees and staff.

Central States Water Resources is part of a larger company that owns and operates water and wastewater systems in the Midwest, according to village documents. The company also is in the process of purchasing a water utility that serves part of Huntley.

The Lake in the Hills main was installed in the 1950s, and the infrastructure has deteriorated and now is at the end of its useful life, according to village documents.

The pipes were made of now-obsolete asbestos-composite material that is subject to deterioration. Now, the pipes are so fragile that staff members cannot perform basic flushing maintenance without causing water main breaks.

Over the past four years, the section of the main has accounted for 40 percent of all water main breaks villagewide, and the average cost for each repair is about $4,300.

The unincorporated area south of Algonquin Road has 71 customers on Scotty Avenue, Dennis Road, Rosemarie Street, Marie Avenue, Isabel Avenue, Ethel Avenue, Craig Street, Roger Street, Willy Avenue, Nevin Avenue and Joan Street.

“Times are tight for most of us, but asking a few current dozen residents to bear the financial burden of your decadelong obligation is not an equitable solution, and we believe it is indefensible from a legal, regulatory and moral perspective,” Zastow said.

Information will be gathered by the board, village staff and audience members about the water system and the private company, and more discussion will be held, Trustee Stephen Harlfinger said.

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