Mayor Bart: Wauconda is re-evaluating water plan

Updated 7/29/2013 11:55 PM
  • Frank Bart

    Frank Bart

A voter-approved, $50 million plan to bring Lake Michigan water to Wauconda is being re-evaluated by village officials, Mayor Frank Bart said Monday.

Bart said his goal is to reduce the cost of the project.

"We'll get Lake Michigan water, and we'll get it at the best price," Bart told the Daily Herald in a telephone interview.

Even so, Bart said sticking with the town's current well system remains on the table.

"Well water is still an option," he said.

"But is that our plan? Absolutely not."

The mayor's comments followed questions at board meetings about the progress of the plan, as well as public criticism from Volo Mayor Burnell Russell, whose town was expecting to partner with Wauconda on the venture.

In a June appearance before Wauconda's village board, Russell called Wauconda's decision not to help fund a study on a possible water route "disappointing."

Bart didn't attend that meeting.

Russell reiterated his concerns Monday, saying he's concerned the plan to partner with Wauconda will "fall apart."

"Just before the election, everything was ready to be signed. We were that close," Russell said. "Wauconda's got to make a decision."

Wauconda voters overwhelmingly approved the water plan in November 2012. Bart was elected mayor this past April, defeating incumbent Mark Knigge.

Homes and businesses in Wauconda get water from eight wells that are expected to run dry in 18 years.

Well contamination has been a concern, too. In 2006, potential carcinogens were discovered on some other shallow wells in the Wauconda area. They came from a nearby environmental cleanup site.

Officials have insisted nothing is wrong with the town's water supply. Switching to Lake Michigan water was promoted as a proactive step.

The owner of a house valued at $200,000 is expected to pay an additional $516 a year in property taxes and water fees to fund the effort.

In Monday's interview, Bart called some of the promotional effort that led to the plan's passage "manipulative scare tactics."

He also criticized the previous administration's efforts to tie the village's water plans to Volo and the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency.

Bart declined to say why he disliked the Volo option.

Other possible sources of water from Lake Michigan exist, Bart said, and officials are investigating which is the best for the town.

Bart said the village board supports his efforts to re-examine the project. Trustee Ken Arnswald agreed.

"We have to do our due diligence to get the best possible deal for Wauconda," Arnswald said.

Trustee Chuck Black also backs Bart's decision to explore options. However, getting Lake Michigan water for Wauconda is a priority, he said.

Bart didn't have a timetable for the evaluation process. The opportunity to get water from Lake Michigan is limited.

Wauconda has been allocated water service from Lake Michigan through a state program. If it doesn't sign on by 2015, the option expires.

Bart denied the project is being delayed.

"We're still working on it," he said. "We're making progress."

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