Homer Glen, partner towns prepare offer for water system
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org June 19, 2012 6:52PM
Updated: July 21, 2012 6:20AM
Homer Glen and four other towns whose residents have believed for years that their water bills are exorbitant are working on an offer to buy the existing water system from a private company.
Whether or when a purchase may happen remains in question, however. Illinois American Water is not interested in selling a pipeline that brings Lake Michigan water to the region via Bedford Park, and officials expect the acquisition attempt to involve eminent domain and litigation.
Homer Glen, Lemont, Romeoville, Woodridge and Bolingbrook — which for years have discussed buying the water system from American Lake Water Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Illinois American Water — this week announced the formal creation of the Northern Will County Water Agency. Creating the agency gives it eminent domain powers, Bolingbrook village attorney Jim Boan said.
“I’m very happy about it,” said Homer Glen Mayor Jim Daley, who was appointed as agency co-chair with Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar.
Daley said the agency, which met last week for the first time, intends to make an offer “right away” to buy the pipeline. He said the villages have agreed on an offer price, which he declined to reveal, pending formal approval.
“We’ve had it appraised,” Daley said, “and I’m sure they (Illinois American Water) will disagree. I expect this will be litigated.
“We have every right to purchase the system at fair market value. In the end this will be a win-win for the agency and the residents of Homer Glen.”
An Illinois American Water official criticized the plan and said the agency hasn’t been forthcoming with the water company’s customers.
“The agency is essentially a local, government-funded, start-up organization that states its goal is to acquire a private company that is not for sale,” Michael A. Smyth, a senior manager, wrote in an email statement. “Eminent domain proceedings cost taxpayers millions in litigation and take years to complete. Respectfully, having met for years, the agency’s mayors have an obligation to transparency and full disclosure, to share with their taxpayers and our customers the true costs of litigation, a time-frame, and a plan to fund, operate and maintain what must remain a well-run water company.”
Officials in the five towns believe they can stabilize water rates because there will be no profit motive, no corporate or real estate taxes and no dividends to pay stockholders, Boan said.
As a public body, the Northern Will County Water Agency now is subject to the Illinois Open Meetings Act, and meeting notices will be posted on village websites, Boan said. The next meeting is at 11 a.m. Sept. 10 at the Homer Glen village hall.