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Northern Will County Water Agency approves new budget

BOLINGBROOK – The Northern Will County Water Agency approved a $662,500 budget during a quarterly meeting Monday at Woodridge Village Hall.

Entrenched in an ongoing struggle to gain control of the 30-mile Bedford Park transmission pipeline from the privately held American Lake Water Co. and its local subsidiary Illinois American Water, Bolingbrook will shoulder a majority of Northern Will County Water Agency's budget for the new fiscal year, which started May 1.

Comprised of Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Lemont, Homer Glen and Woodridge, Northern Will County Water Agency was formed in order to purchase and take over the pipeline, which distributes water residences in the five towns.

But, the pipeline primarily serves Bolingbrook residents.

As a result, Bolingbrook will cover about $521,000 of the budget while Homer Glen pays $136,000, Woodridge shells out $4,500, Lemont pays about $390 and Romeoville just $145, according to agency documents.

In January, Northern Will County Water Agency filed an eminent domain lawsuit in its attempt to gain control of a water pipeline, accusing the company of hiking rates for profit during the last decade.

Eminent domain gives governing bodies power to seize private property without owner’s consent, but the case is not expected to go to court until 2014 or early 2015.

The suit states the threat of additional water rate hikes by the company are “real and imminent.”

“Between 2003 and 2012, water rates have increased by more than 50 percent to unprecedented levels,” according to the lawsuit.

Obtaining ownership of the pipeline from the privately owned water company would “eliminate the profit motive inherent in private ownership,” the lawsuit states. Doing so would allow the nearly 30,000 residential and commercial users “to save substantial money on water over time.”

Filing the suit — which mayors representing the five towns in the water agency unanimously agreed to in December — launches a legal battle that could take years to resolve. And Illinois American Water Representatives say it could cost taxpayers millions.

“The water agency and its members have worked on their takeover plan for almost six years, have spent hundreds of thousands of precious taxpayer dollars on legal fees and consultants, yet they still misrepresent the facts,” said Michael Smyth, senior manager of Illinois American Water. “These (water rate) increases alleged in the complaint have been caused by rate increases from other water suppliers such as the City of Chicago. These supplier increases are passed along without mark-up or profit by American Lake Water.”

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