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updated: 11/27/2012 3:55 PM

Prospect Heights debates lake water to 385 homes

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Hardly anything is more controversial in Prospect Heights than water, and a proposal to bring Lake Michigan water to 385 homes sparked an argument before the city council Monday night.

Richard Tibbits, city treasurer and chairman of the city's water commission, asked the council to begin setting up a special service area to pipe water to the area bounded by Camp McDonald and Palatine roads between Elmhurst and Wheeling roads.

Aldermen eventually agreed with City Engineer Jim Johnson's suggestion that he first analyze the study the city commissioned. The study was paid for personally by Tibbits, who will be reimbursed by the city.

Under an SSA the costs of a project fall only on the homes in that area. The study shows extending water to these houses could be done for $7.3 million, which until it was paid off would cost each homeowner between $500 and $2,000 annually, depending on each houses's assessed valuation, said Tibbits.

However, this amount requires certain conditions, including the city agreeing to pay the extra $500,000 to install 12-inch rather than 8-inch mains so other neighborhoods could be connected in the future.

Tibbits said the study also determined the project would not require a water tower and could work with the existing pump station.

Ward 4 Alderman Patrick Ludvigsen, an avowed supporter of lake water, questioned whether two-thirds of people in the area really support the project and asked if the city could mail a survey to the affected homes. He also objected to some cost-trimming parts of Tibbits' proposal.

To establish a SSA, the council first holds a public hearing. If the council approves the district, opponents would need to get signatures of just over half the registered voters and half the property owners in the district to prevent its implementation.

Tibbits wanted the council to go forward with ordering the drafting of an ordinance and planning a hearing. He objected to a survey.

"It slows it down," he said. "I am asking for an ordinance. Let the process play itself out. We're dragging it through the mud some more, and I'm getting tired of it."

City Attorney Mike Zimmermann said traditionally people in Prospect Heights say they want Lake Michigan water, but then the issue of cost arises. Most single-family homes in the city are on well water.

At least 20 people at the meeting wore stickers supporting city water and cheered Tibbits' proposal. A few spoke on either side of the issue.

Former Mayor Dolly Vole, who was in the audience, complained that it was impossible to get information about items on Monday's agenda before the meeting, including the SSA. Neither the location of the area nor the fact that it involved water was listed. The item said "Proposed SSA 9 Discussion of Boundaries and Purpose."

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