Seven months after they unceremoniously told Wauconda to find another source for Lake Michigan drinking water, the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency board on Wednesday voted to restart negotiations with the town.
But the discussion that preceded the 9-0 vote included some strong words for Wauconda Mayor Frank Bart, whom the panel continues to blame for the collapse of the earlier negotiations last fall.
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The only way the water agency board will approve Wauconda's membership is if the town's trustees formally agree that Bart won't be their envoy to the panel.
Every other water agency board member is a mayor -- but those mayors don't want to work with Bart.
"This fell apart not because of Wauconda or the community, but because of one individual," said water agency board member Kristina Kovarik, Gurnee's mayor.
"He cannot serve at this table, on this board," said water agency board Chairman Rich Hill, who's Round Lake Beach's mayor.
Bart didn't attend the meeting at the agency's Lake Bluff headquarters.
Bart has publicly said he will nominate Trustee Lincoln Knight to serve as the village's representative if Wauconda is offered membership.
But water agency board members on Wednesday said they didn't even want him involved in that process. Village trustees need to select the representative on their own, they said.
That requirement would be part of a membership offer, they said.
Knight, Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner and other Wauconda officials were in the audience for the discussion. Maxeiner said a caveat keeping Bart off the dais and away from the nomination process would be "acceptable" to the board.
Afterward, Maxeiner told the Daily Herald he was "pleasantly surprised" by the vote.
"We're looking to be a good member moving forward," Maxeiner said.
Knight was similarly pleased. He called the vote "very positive."
Wauconda voters in 2012 approved a $50 million plan to connect to a Lake Michigan water system, and from the start the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency was the town's preferred provider.
But two years of negotiations slowed down after Bart was elected in April 2013. He said he wanted to investigate all of the town's options, including joining a different water group or even sticking with the existing well system.
Some financial terms of the proposed agreement between the village and the water agency also came into question once Bart took office.