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updated: 9/5/2013 3:37 PM

Wauconda must make water plan decision soon, agency says

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  • Wauconda officials have until Sept. 18 to approve an agreement with a regional agency for Lake Michigan drinking water. If they don't, the agency says, they'll have to find a different connection to the Great Lake.

       Wauconda officials have until Sept. 18 to approve an agreement with a regional agency for Lake Michigan drinking water. If they don't, the agency says, they'll have to find a different connection to the Great Lake.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Frank Bart

      Frank Bart

 
 

A regional agency that provides drinking water from Lake Michigan to some Lake County communities has told Wauconda officials they have until Sept. 18 to decide on membership.

The Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency wants a "quick and definitive position from Wauconda" about joining their service, Executive Director Darrell W. Blenniss Jr. said in an Aug. 30 letter to Mayor Frank Bart and the village board.

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"Wauconda must simply decide whether it can make that decision by Sept. 18 and to begin the process of financing the costs of agency membership," Blenniss wrote.

It's the second such deadline the agency has set in recent weeks. The first was Aug. 21.

The village has not yet formally responded to Blenniss' letter.

Bart and other officials met with CLCJAWA representatives, including Blenniss, for more than an hour Thursday to discuss the village's plans. Afterward, Bart called the session "very productive" and said more meetings will follow.

Blenniss believes the two sides are "pretty close" on an agreement.

"I think we're right there," he told the Daily Herald.

After Wauconda voters in 2012 overwhelmingly approved a $50 million plan to connect to a Lake Michigan water system, village officials neared an agreement to partner with nearby Volo and join CLCJAWA.

Plans slowed down, however, after Bart was elected in April. Bart has said he wants to investigate all of the town's options, including joining a different water group or even continuing to use its existing well system.

The delay has meant a necessary route study project hasn't been funded or undertaken, officials said.

At this Tuesday's village board meeting, Bart said he and CLCJAWA remain divided over fees he wants to collect from any villages that join the system after Wauconda.

But in his letter, Blenniss said the agency had previously agreed to allow Wauconda and Volo to recapture some costs from subsequent members.

"It is only Wauconda that is asking for additional concessions," Blenniss wrote.

If Wauconda officials don't reach a decision, Blenniss said, the agency will abandon its plans to serve Wauconda and Volo through the previously proposed line extension.

Village leaders have had enough time to determine if joining CLCJAWA "is the best decision for your community," Blenniss wrote.

"After two years of analysis and evaluation, the agency, at least, has reached the end of the negotiation phase," Blenniss wrote.

On Thursday, however, Bart said more talks still are needed.

"We'll keep the negotiations open," he said.

Bart insisted the village is "moving forward diligently" on the project. One of the current tasks is developing a second water plan for comparison, he said.

Even so, Bart said, the village "(is) not starting from scratch."

Blenniss called the recapture issue "the last piece of the puzzle." But the agency can't continue waiting for Wauconda to sign up, he said.

If Wauconda passes, CLCJAWA will work to strike a deal with Volo, Blenniss said.

Despite the delay, Wauconda already has started borrowing money to pay for the project. Additionally, the owner of a house valued at $200,000 is expected to pay an additional $516 a year in property taxes and water fees.

The village board will publicly discuss Blenniss' letter and the town's options Tuesday, Sept. 10.

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