Back in 2012 there was a news story in the Morton Grove Champion about water rates that got a lot of folks stirred up.
“Chicago officials say their rate hike is necessary to maintain an aging system. But many towns say the increases, which will total 90 percent after four years, are a burden — one large enough to spend money to look elsewhere for water.
A 25 percent increase took effect Jan. 1, with hikes of 15 percent planned for each of the next three years already approved by the Chicago City Council. Des Plaines, for example, paid Chicago about $5 million in 2011 for water, but the rate increase means it will pay $6.25 million this year. By 2015, that figure will reach $9.5 million, officials said.”
There was much huffing and puffing on the part of the DiMaria administration about how the village should look for another vendor for Lake Michigan water. The idea of approaching Wilmette or Evanston was, you should pardon the pun, floated.
But, like so many other bits of bluff, bluster and bloviating, (like a “critical” need for a new police station for example), this DiMaria promise faded off into the fog and off the radar.
Fast forward to 2016, after an, (at least), 70% increase in our water rates, all of a sudden, the administration announces a big money consulting contract. Morton Grove trustees voted unanimously at its Nov. 28, 2016 village board meeting to hire the Chicago-based Klein Thorpe and Jenkins Ltd. as special counsel.
Five years and a 70%, (or is it 90% as first reported?), rate increase later, our village government decides to spend big bucks, (your tax bucks), to put together an agreement with Evanston to provide water.
The first question that comes up here is, why do we have a village attorney, who, according to village administrator Ralph Czerwinski in praising her 2016 accomplishments in his budget message, stated; “Served as a member of the management team to negotiate a long term water supply agreement with the Village of Niles, and oversee numerous processes to evaluate construction and financing options.” Are we paying double for services here? If the village attorney was overseeing this process, why did we hire Klein Thorpe and Jenkins Ltd.?
Various news articles keep telling us that an agreement between Evanston, Niles and Morton Grove is very close. We were also told, back in 2012 by Public Works Director, DeMonte, that the infrastructure build-out to connect to Evanston could run as high as $35 million and he questioned if that would eat up any savings.
In an article in the Evanston Review on 1-9-2017, it was reported:
“Work will begin in February on a long-planned project to improve Evanston’s water treatment plant, according to city officials.
The work will include replacing or fixing aging parts of the plant. Those include valves, ducts, piping, electrical systems and components and the chemical feed system, among other items, according to a city news release.
The project follows a 10 percent water rate hike in 2015 for Evanston customers, according to city reports. It also comes as Evanston continues talks to supply Niles and Morton Grove with Lake Michigan water.”
Interesting timing here. Is it possible that the taxpayers of Morton Grove will be paying, at least in part, for the new water facilities in Evanston? Why couldn’t Morton Grovers get some help from their State Representative John Damico? (Would it have anything to do with the fact that Mr. Damico holds a second government job with the City of Chicago Water Department?)
Somehow a great many parts of this deal seem all wet.
Tune in next week, dear readers, when we answer the question; “What is village government costing Morton Grove taxpayers?