Amid a confused outlook about how best to obtain access to Lake Michigan water, Wauconda officials are contemplating whether to continue working with other villages or to pursue another path.
Mayor Mark Knigge told the board at its Tuesday night committee meeting they will need to decide by June 1 if Wauconda should go the safe route and pay $50,000 to stay with the partnership or if the village should venture out on its own.
"We may take the risk and it may not work," he said. "Or if we stay with the group, the risk may be the water supply would be controlled by the county."
Wauconda and the other members of the North-West Lake County Lake Michigan Water Planning Group made individual pitches to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources asking for Lake Michigan water to replace what were considered to be dwindling supplies.
After a four-year process, eight of the 10 entities were approved for a Lake Michigan allocation as being the most economical source of water. Lake Zurich and Long Grove were approved because it would reduce the reliance on the deep aquifer as a water source.
Other members of the group are Antioch, Volo, Lindenhurst, Lake Villa, Fox Lake and Lake County, which operates systems in Grandwood Park and Fox Lake Hills.
Village attorney Rudolph Magna said the villages are now coming to a place where policy and procedure will cause them to converge or to diverge.
As the consortium looks to establish a governing process, a proposal was made to look to the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency as a model that would provide a democratic, participatory way of making policy decisions. However, this was dismissed by other municipalities and the county, Magna said.
Now, the lawyers, engineers and many involved work for the county. This should be of concern, he said, because while municipalities contribute financially, they may not be involved in the discussions that will be part of a $250 million project.
"With that money, you don't own the lawyers. You don't own the engineers. You don't own the administrator. I mean that in the kindest way, but I am trying to get the point across. They work for somebody else with your money."
To begin the second phase of the water quest, Wauconda would need to commit $25,000 and then six months later two additional payments of $12,500 each.
Now that it has an allocation, Wauconda also has the option to approach other water sources such as the city of Waukegan, city of North Chicago and the Central Lake County JAWA to see if they could furnish water.
Trustee Lincoln Knight said, "I think there are too many options out there, and I think there are too many red flags with the county to commit $50,000 for the residents of Wauconda."
Knigge said it is important the village explore options because how else can the village justify to its taxpayers spending the money.
"It's a huge decision. It's a huge concern for the future of our community," Knigge said. "But we also owe it to our residents to explore every option and to do it the most cost effective way we can."