Wauconda officials want to join existing Lake Michigan water agency
Wauconda wants to strike a deal to join an existing agency providing Lake Michigan water instead of being part of a startup group, village officials said.
Gaining membership to the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency (CLC JAWA), formed in the early 1990s to bring Lake Michigan water to 10 entities, is now the main objective, Mayor Mark Knigge said.
"Becoming members rather than purchasing water from somewhere else, you have a little more say," Knigge said. "So as a voting member, that would probably be our first choice."
Wauconda has applied for membership and is negotiating costs to hook up to that system, he said. The base price Wauconda uses to compare pricing options is $203 million, which would be the cost help form the new North-West Lake Michigan water group.
CLC JAWA gave Wauconda a per household connection fee price it would charge for services. Wauconda filed a counter offer reflecting what the board believes the village can afford.
Knigge said local taxpayers are estimated to pay an additional $40 a month.
"Right at the very top of the list of priorities is what is the cost," he said.
The decision facing North-West group members — Wauconda, Volo, Lake Villa, Lindenhurst, Antioch, Fox Lake and Lake County, which operates two water systems — is to form their own water agency or hook on with an existing group.
One option could be CLC JAWA, which doesn't have enough water to accommodate the entire North-West group. CLC JAWA is determining whether to provide service to the North towns of Wauconda and Volo, or the West towns of Lake Villa, Lindenhurst and the Lake County systems.
Darrell Blenniss, executive director of CLC JAWA, said they are working with both groups and a decision should be made in a few months.
"There's different variables, each group is so unique compared to the other," he said.
The North group's higher upfront demand is one concern officials have said.
Although rate relief for existing members is an incentive for the CLC JAWA, Blenniss said the more water sold, the more risk there is to existing systems.
"All of those variables will be counted for and taken into consideration," he said.
Knigge said the village still has fallback options, which include forming a new agency with the North-West group or negotiating as a customer with the Cook County-based Northwest Water Commission.
"What we're going through is what all other communities in the past have gone through," he said. "It is a big expense for residents, but it also guarantees a sustainable high quality water supply for the future."
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