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updated: 2/16/2012 11:18 PM

DuPage Water Commission meets with Emanuel

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Turning the money over won't be any easier but DuPage Water Commission officials at least have a better feel for what they're buying.

Chairman Jim Zay and John Spatz, Executive Director of the DuPage Water Commission said Thursday that a recent no-holds-barred meeting with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has them feeling slightly more confident that revenues from the recent four-year rate increase imposed by Chicago will be used to benefit the entire water system and not just capital improvements to Chicago's water system.

To make sure, the commission has asked the city to create biannual reports including a comparison of budgeted water revenue versus actual revenue, a list of cash transfers from the city's water fund and an annual Department of Water Management budget.

"We talked about all of the information we've gotten from our customers and all of the reports we want to see on a biannual basis," Zay said. "(Emanuel) was pretty frank and blunt to us that he wanted this to work and he wants to be very transparent. He's got a lot riding on this and he wants to make sure that we're getting everything we want."

He said the mayor lived up to his tough exterior personality.

"The meeting went well and he, well he scared me but he seemed to be on board with us," Zay said.

The meeting however, came almost one week to the day after Chicago Water Commissioner Thomas Powers sent the commission a tersely worded letter on Feb. 2 stating

Chicago "is already posting online much of the data you are suggesting we provide to our customers," including the annual budget.

The commission, which makes up 10 percent of the city's total water sales, will now meet next week with the rest of the Chicago customers to talk about what financial information they are seeking from Chicago.

"Moving forward, by brining the groups together, if we come out of it with a small committee instead of us talking as 10 percent of the customer base, we'd be more unified with all of the suburbs," Spatz said. "Then you're talking about 50 percent of the customer base."

Chicago's 2012 budget includes rate hikes of 25 percent this year and 15 percent in each of the following three years to cover the cost of water and sewer infrastructure upgrades.

The combined effects of the city and commission's corresponding rate hikes mean DuPage municipalities began paying 30 percent more beginning Jan. 1. That would be followed by annual increases of 20 percent, 18 percent and 17 percent. The commission portions of those hikes are 5 percent the first two years, 3 percent in the third year and 2 percent in the fourth year.

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