$46 million to extend Lake Michigan water in Lake County?

A new source at the tap is still a few years away, but the framework of a continuing effort to bring Lake Michigan water to Lindenhurst, Lake Villa and other areas is taking shape.

The Lake County Board will decide Tuesday whether to establish a special taxing area and borrow up to $46 million to pay costs associated with providing Lake Michigan water to those towns. It would also include water systems operated by the county in unincorporated Grandwood Park and Fox Lake Hills.

Approval of what is described as a “proposing ordinance” would precede an August public hearing for the county board to hear public input, followed by a November decision on whether to officially proceed.

The board meets at 9 a.m. in at the government center, 18 N. County St., Waukegan.

“It's an important step,” said Peter Kolb, Lake County's public works director. “It starts the detailed milestones to get the SSA (special service area) established.”

The special taxing area would encompass an estimated 11,300 parcels. Property owners in the designated area would pay an annual fee in addition to their regular water bills for the Lake Michigan water service.

On average, Lake Michigan water would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $40 a month more than what they pay now, Kolb said. The extra cost includes the special assessment and the fee charged for the water.

According to the ordinance, the county could borrow up to $46 million by issuing bonds for a period of up to 30 years at a rate not to exceed 7 percent.

If the board approves the measure today, every property owner in the proposed area would be mailed a notice of the public hearing scheduled for Aug. 13 in Lake Villa. A 60-day objection period would follow, during which the special service area could be negated if a majority of electors and owners of record sign a petition opposing the move.

During the past few months, the county and individual communities have hosted open houses about Lake Michigan water. Planning for such a scenario began several years ago and initially included 10 entities that in early 2011 were granted Lake Michigan water allocations by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

But that consortium has been thinned as communities seek their own options. Lake Villa and Lindenhurst, with the two county systems, make up the north group of remaining entities. Wauconda and Volo constitute the west group and would not be affected by the special service area considered today by the county board.

Lake Villa has become a provisional member of the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency, which since the 1980s has been supplying several communities with Lake Michigan water. Because of lower demand and other factors, the agency now has room for more members.

Mayor Frank Loffredo said several details are being finalized with the possibility of having Lake Michigan water coming from village taps in three years or so.

“We've got a lot of balls in the air. Hopefully, they come down at the same time,” he said.

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