As negotiations to bring drinking water from Lake Michigan to Wauconda continue, village trustees on Tuesday broke with Mayor Frank Bart on a key bargaining point.
Since taking office in May, Bart has adamantly said the village should collect fees from any other communities that join a water system after Wauconda. These so-called recapture fees would reimburse Wauconda for some of the money it spends on the project.
The Central Lake County Joint Water Agency, the regional group the village was tentatively set to join before Bart's election, has balked at allowing Wauconda to charge such fees, however.
During a committee-of-the-whole discussion Tuesday night, trustees said the recapture fees are important but shouldn't kill a possible deal.
"Recapture is huge. Is it a deal-breaker? No," Trustee Ken Arnswald said.
Trustee Chuck Black quickly agreed with Arnswald, saying he would consider a water deal without recapture fees.
Other trustees took similar stances. John Barbini, who's on the local team investigating Wauconda's water issues, said the town should pursue collecting the fees but stopped short of contractually demanding them.
"It never hurts to negotiate," Barbini said.
Wauconda voters in 2012 overwhelmingly approved a $50 million plan to connect to a Lake Michigan water system. Officials had been nearing a deal with nearby Volo to join CLCJAWA.
Plans slowed down, however, after Bart took office. He said he wanted to investigate all of the town's options, including joining a different water group or even continuing to use an existing well system.
During Tuesday's discussion, Bart and other officials revealed they've been investigating the Northwest Water Commission, a Des Plaines-based group that serves Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove and other towns.
The Northwest Water Commission would allow Wauconda to collect recapture fees, which Barbini estimated could total $3.9 million.
But a deal with that group would leave Wauconda responsible for maintenance expenses -- something that wouldn't be a factor with CLCJAWA.
CLCJAWA officials have set a Sept. 18 deadline for Wauconda trustees to decide on membership.