LAKE IN THE HILLS – Unincorporated Lake in the Hills residents were given 30 more days to complete a hefty homework assignment: research and find a water company that would buy the unincorporated water main system.
After hearing several residents speak during a meeting Thursday night, trustees agreed to table the sale of the unincorporated water main system for the second time. Trustees voted, 4-2, with Trustees Suzanne Artinghelli and Bob Huckins voting against tabling the sale.
“If you really believe that we are not part of your community and your neighbors, and that we don’t deserve your protection, then you should give us the agency to give us these choices ourselves,” unincorporated resident Rachel Zastrow said.
Zastrow and several others asked for more time to research other companies to see whether they can find other bids. Central States Water Resources officials said they are willing to buy the system south of Algonquin and Pyott roads for $1.
Public Works Director Dan Kaup said the village already has consulted with Aqua America Illinois, Illinois American Water Co. and Utilities Inc., who all said they are not interested in buying the main.
Trustee Stephen Harlfinger encouraged residents to work with their elected officials, such as McHenry County Board members and Algonquin Township trustees, to find a solution.
The village bought the system in the 1970s, and the infrastructure is near the end of its useful life. The area accounts for 45 percent of all water main breaks and needs to be replaced, Kaup said.
Kaup estimates that water system – as well as fire hydrant – replacements will cost $1.8 million, and the village generates $30,000 a year from 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, and village staff would return 10 years’ worth of the fee to each property owner, costing $20,880, Kaup said.
Village President Russ Ruzanski said he is in favor of the sale, and the village never has received enough revenue to be able to replace the system itself.
“It would be fundamentally unfair to village residents to foot a seven-digit bill for customers who are not within our municipality,” Ruzanski said. “In fact, the direct cost of water billing to our own residents would increase by 30 percent if we incurred the expense.”
It remains unclear whether rates will increase for residents under the new company. Rates are set by the Illinois Commerce Commission, which would look at the cost of operating the system and then set the rates for residents to pay.
The system serves 71 unincorporated and four incorporated customers. A meeting with staff presentations took place Monday.
Stay-at-home mom Emily Lehan said she fears for how her family will be able to afford water services.
“It’s already really tight raising five kids on one salary,” Lehan said. “If our water bill jumps up by hundreds of dollars, which that is how it’s looking to be, I don’t know what we are going to do.”