DuPage secures court order to disband Lombard-area sanitary district

After three years of planning, DuPage County has won a court order to disband the Highland Hills Sanitary District, a small unit of government serving a subdivision near Lombard.

The ruling by DuPage Judge Bonnie Wheaton Monday finalizes the dissolution of the district and represents another victory in the county's push to eliminate or consolidate obsolete and redundant taxing bodies.

As part of a complex transition plan, the county paved the way for the elimination of the sanitary district by establishing itself as the subdivision's water supplier. The district previously handled sanitary sewer service and water operations for about 530 residential and business properties in incorporated and unincorporated areas.

Roughly a year ago, Lake Michigan water started flowing through the Highland Hills system to customers that used to be served by the Lombard-area agency. A separate entity, the Flagg Creek Water Reclamation District, has taken over the sewer service.

"A lot of work goes into one little unit of government dissolution," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said Tuesday. "This dissolution is an example of a win-win for the more than 529 residents and businesses in this Lombard-area subdivision. DuPage County now will provide Lake Michigan water service to the residents at a lower cost than their previous well-water system."

At the board meeting Tuesday, Cronin applauded the county's public works staff and Auditor Bob Grogan for their work in the process to eliminate the sanitary district.

"Earlier this year, Public Works Director Nick Kottmeyer reported that his department completed system upgrades with in-house crews, which allowed for the elimination of a sewer reconditioning charge on customers' bills 10 years earlier, thereby saving the residents a total of $357,000 over 10 years," Cronin said. "This is real. This is measurable, and the underlying rate the residents pay for water is less, and the quality is much, much improved."

Disbanding the sanitary district also abolishes its property tax levy of $53,500 a year and eliminates more than $25,000 a year in professional services costs and trustee compensation, according to the county.

Highland Hills is the seventh unit of local government dissolved through the county's Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency Initiative, an effort that launched in 2012 with calls for two dozen local governments to make structural and operational reforms.

In 2013, state lawmakers gave DuPage the power to eliminate Highland Hills and a dozen other local taxing bodies.

• Daily Herald staff writer Robert Sanchez contributed to this report

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