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updated: 9/20/2012 11:36 PM

DuPage Water Commission still waiting on Chicago

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Members of the DuPage Water Commission say they're a patient group. But their collective patience is wearing thin with the city of Chicago over the city's failure to respond to the group in recent weeks.

Commissioners are hoping to hear back from city officials regarding their concerns about the Chicago's first report detailing how it is spending funds from a massive water rate increase imposed on the county.

If they don't commissioners will consider using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the financial data.

Commissioners say the report released by the city does not include any of the information the city agreed to provide to its suburban water customers.

Prior to the four-year water rate increase imposed by Chicago in January, the commission sought assurances from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city's water management department that the revenue would be used to benefit the entire water system and not just capital improvements within the city.

To make sure, the commission requested 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.

The report, dated Aug. 28, includes several pages of updates, with photos, of some of the $400 million of capital projects the city's water department has budgeted for the next two years, a graph outlying more than 250 water main leaks throughout the system during the last six months and Internet links leading to the city's 482-page budget and 2011 financial audit of the water fund.

"Obviously it wasn't what we had expected and we're disappointed," said Chairman Jim Zay. "We were hoping it was an oversight and we sent a letter back stating that and we have not received anything back."

Commissioner Dick Furstenau said it is important for the commission to hold the city's feet to the fire.

"We need to decide what we're going to do if we don't get something back from these folks based upon the letters we've already sent," Furstenau said. "We need to put that on the front burner because I think that there's a lot of folks who think what we're doing is rolling over. We need to have a game plan as a group."

Commissioner and Woodridge Mayor William Murphy suggested the commission wait a week to 10 more days before reaching out to the city and demanding a meeting to clear up any confusion.

Zay and the other commissioners agreed that was the best way to go.

"I understand they've had the strike going on but I'm hoping that now that the strike is over that this gets some recognition. It's not just us. It is all of the customers of the city of Chicago that are asking for this information. We've just taken the lead," Zay said.

"We justified our rate increase to our customers by saying 'this is what the city is doing. But it's a trickle-down effect and we have to be accountable too about why we raised our rates."

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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