Annexation would allow Volo to extend water service to Big Hollow schools
In a rare action, the way has been cleared for Volo to annex a portion of a Lake County forest preserve to extend a Lake Michigan water line.
The Lake County Forest Preserve District board this past week approved an agreement with Volo to annex 73 acres of the Marl Flat Forest Preserve north of Route 120.
The agreement, with various conditions, allows the village to extend its boundary to become contiguous with Big Hollow Elementary District 38 in unincorporated Ingleside.
In return, the forest preserve at no cost would get two properties, including a 35-acre wetland area east of Route 12 and south of Route 120, as an addition to the Singing Hills Forest Preserve.
"Yes, this is a rare occurrence," said Randy Seebach, the district's director of planning and land preservation.
There has to be a significant benefit to the district before an annexation is considered, he added.
Volo connected to Lake Michigan water in October 2019 and intends to extend a water main north along Fish Lake Road in case of an issue with the main line along Route 12.
The annexation isn't needed for that project. But because the school district had expressed interest in connecting, the village sought forest preserve approval; the school property has to be in the village for the water to be supplied.
Big Hollow serves about 1,800 students from parts of Fox Lake, Lakemoor, Round Lake and Volo at its three-school campus southwest of Nippersink and Wilson roads.
Given the location, the village approached the school district about connecting as the project was being designed.
"That would bring a water main literally in front of the campus," said Volo village Administrator Mike May.
"There's been a long-standing interest on the part of Big Hollow to get a more reliable water supply for fire suppression and pressure," he added.
However, the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency, which supplies Volo and several other communities with Lake Michigan water, would require the school campus to be part of the village for water service to be extended.
"We were always interested in getting a public water supply if we could get it, but there were no feasible options," said District 38 Superintendent Bob Gold.
Big Hollow is on a well system and is not in immediate need of a new water supply, Gold added.
"That would be for the long-term benefit of the district. There are no short-term deficiencies," he said.
Connecting to Volo's Lake Michigan water main would cost about $200,000, according to Gold.
Talks began pre-COVID, he added, and the school board wants to ensure it would be the right decision for the district's long-term benefit.
Gold said he is researching details in advance of a school board discussion in February including costs, future water rates and impact on the district's fire suppression systems.
The village board will proceed with the annexation in February, according to May.
"We can't go any further until we have continuity and the ability to annex them," he said.
The water main project is planned regardless of Big Hollow's decision, he added.