The Prospect Heights City Council Monday got closer to hiring Bill Balling, retired village manager of Buffalo Grove, to find the city a source for Lake Michigan water, then help bring the project to fruition.
Each alderman will email more questions and his or her vision for the water project, and Mayor Nick Helmer said he was eager to see the reports.
It became clear at Monday's meeting that at least some alderman would prefer to have one source for water citywide.
However, Balling said this might not be practical in the short term.
Helmer said after the meeting that he thinks a special service area -- where the residents who receive the water pay a special tax -- might be the eventual financial solution.
The mayor also supported hiring Balling, although he indicated there could be negotiations over his proposed charges.
"It's so intricate a problem we need someone like Bill who knows all the players," said the mayor.
"It's like saying, 'Why can't I negotiate like a lawyer?' I'm not a lawyer. We don't have qualified people to find which source for water is best and negotiate for us."
Balling's proposal to the city asks for $3,000 a month for 10 hours plus $185 per hour for any additional time. He recommends the city budget $5,000 to $7,000 monthly for his contract and said it might take a year to get a plan together -- and longer to implement it.
The goals under the contract would include negotiating a contract to provide lake water to Prospect Heights, finding a grant or low-interest loan to fund the infrastructure needed, and working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to get approval for the city to use that much water.
"You have a geographic advantage," said Balling. "Outlying communities don't have too many options (of water suppliers). Parts of Prospect Heights already receive Lake Michigan water from two sources.
Helmer said 40 percent of the residences in the city -- single-family homes on at least half-acre lots -- have individual wells and no infrastructure to connect to a central water system. The city has about 17,000 people.
Helmer estimated up to 3,000 people living in multifamily complexes receive Lake Michigan water from Illinois American Water.
Aldermen Bree Higgins of the Fifth Ward and Luis Mendez of the First Ward, who represent much of that area, said the goal should include lower water prices and newer infrastructure for those consumers.