Des Plaines is close to finalizing a deal for a new water source that officials say would save the city $7,000 a day by weaning itself off Chicago's water.
Mayor Matt Bogusz and City Manager Mike Bartholomew believe they may have found Des Plaines residents and businesses a cheaper, alternative water source in the Northwest Water Commission, an agency that provides water to Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Palatine and Wheeling.
The agency is headquartered at 1525 N. Wolf Road in Des Plaines -- a little more than a mile from a Des Plaines pumping station and reservoir at 877 Central Road. Under a proposed agreement that would allow Des Plaines to buy water from the commission, a new 6,500-lineal foot, 24-inch pipeline would run between those two locations.
John DuRocher, the agency's executive director, announced at the commission's monthly meeting Wednesday that he and Des Plaines officials are finalizing details on the agreement.
The five-member commission, composed of representatives of the four member towns and a chairman appointed by the Cook County Board president, will vote as soon as next month on whether to approve Des Plaines as a customer. Then, each member town's village board will consider the agreement; three of the four village boards must approve for the deal to take effect.
The commission's next regularly scheduled meeting is Sept. 3, but Des Plaines officials have asked the commission to consider holding a special meeting in August to speed up the approval process.
Commission Chairman Bill Brimm said he wasn't adverse to that request.
Des Plaines has bought its water from the city of Chicago since the 1960s. But officials began looking for a new water source in 2012 when Chicago hiked its rate by 25 percent and promised 15 percent increases in the following years through 2015.
Bartholomew said the Northwest Water Commission offered the best deal -- due in large part to its proximity.
The city council has allocated $6 million to spend over the next two years to build a pipeline and make improvements to the Central Road pumping station that would enable it to receive the agency's water. Many of those capital expenses will be funded through the city's share of Rivers Casino revenues.
By comparison, connecting to Wilmette's water, by way of Glenview, would have required an upfront capital investment of as much as $15 million and higher rates, Bartholomew said.
Des Plaines is planning to spend $709,350 on design and engineering work for the pipeline and pumping station upgrades, but those contracts are contingent on approval of the city as a water customer.
Bartholomew said he believes all boards will approve the agreement.
There had been earlier discussion that commission members -- the village managers of Buffalo Grove, Palatine and Wheeling and the Arlington Heights public works director -- alone could have been allowed to add new customers. But Arlington Heights officials preferred the approval method stay the same, allowing each town's elected board to vote on new water customers.
Des Plaines won't be a voting member of the commission -- only a customer, which Bogusz said Wednesday had been his intent all along.
If the deal goes through, the mayor said the city would first eliminate its deficit in the water and sewer fund, caused by Chicago's rate hikes and Des Plaines sewer repair costs, and then be able to pass along savings to residents on their water bills. The savings amount to about $2.5 million a year.
Bartholomew said Des Plaines would still have to purchase a small amount of water from Chicago, in order to keep Des Plaines' 9 million gallon water tank on Maple Street south of Touhy Avenue in operation.