WAUCONDA – If customers think it costs a lot to wash their clothes at Wauconda Laundromat, they're not alone.
The manager agrees. And he posted a sign blaming that on the village's water rates, saying they're much higher in Wauconda than the other towns where he does business.
His company has four other laundromats – two in Chicago and one each in Fox Lake and Mundelein.
In Wauconda, rates are highest for industrial users, with commercial customers the next highest. The lowest rates are for residential consumers.
The laundromat's manager, Norm Lynn, has expressed his concern to the village.
"The water rates have been distorted. They have really whacked the business side," Lynn said. "The rates should be more fairly assessed. Our rates are onerous. They should raise homeowners' rates and lower commercial rates."
Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner said the village may look at setting the same rate for all users.
"We don't really have anything ready for consideration," he said. "This will be coming in the future."
Some towns, he said, have lower rates for industrial users to attract economic development.
Wauconda's long-term plan is to lower the costs of its water system, hoping to lower customers' bills. The village has been working with the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency, which formed in the early 1990s to get water from Lake Michigan for area towns.
It's hard to tell how much the village will save by joining the agency, which would mean big initial costs in infrastructure, Maxeiner said.
"We have a ballpark estimate [for the infrastructure]. We don't know the debt service requirements. Operationally, we know it will be cheaper to use Lake Michigan water than it is pulling from the ground," he said.
Later this month, the agency's board may vote on allowing both Wauconda and Volo to join. An agreement has been in the works for a long time.
"That's been going very well," said Darrell Blenniss, the agency's executive director. "I think we're in a position to act. We're hopeful we can do this as soon as possible."
Wauconda's agreement with the agency will be different from others in that the mayor will be barred from membership on the agency's board of trustees. Some blame Mayor Frank Bart for delays in reaching an agreement, with Round Lake Mayor Dan MacGillis saying a few months ago that Bart "doesn't play well in the sandbox."
Bart, though, has called himself a "change agent," saying people often don't like to see the status quo disrupted.
Blenniss said the provision about the mayor could change later if all the members agree.
If Wauconda and Volo join, construction to link their water systems to the agency's could take about two years, Blenniss said.
Lindenhurst and Lake Villa, which joined last year, are in the design phase for tying in their systems, he said. The target date for finishing construction is summer 2017.