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Judge orders water agency to refund American Lake Water Co. $100k for dismissed suit

Published: Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 2:59 p.m. CST • Updated: Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014 8:20 p.m. CST

A judge has ordered the Northern Will County Water Agency to pay more than $100,000 to the company that owns a water pipeline the agency is trying to take over.

The money will refund American Lake Water Co. $105,510 for "reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses" it spent before the water agency voluntarily dismissed an eminent domain suit to seize control of the pipeline earlier this year.

The initial lawsuit was dropped at the recommendation of the water agency's legal team due to concern that the suit listed the water agency as the sole plaintiff. It was re-filed in June with each of the agencies five member communities – Bolingbrook, Homer Glen, Woodridge, Lemont and Romeoville – listed as plaintiffs.

Jim Boan, the water agency's attorney, said the agency towns were aware that pulling and then re-filing the suit would cost the agency.

"The agency board knew as a consequence of dismissing the suit that there would be attorneys' fees," Boan said.

The eminent domain lawsuit attempts to take control of the 30-mile Bedford Park transmission line that brings water from Bedford Park to the southwest suburbs, including the five towns in the agency, via eminent domain. Eminent domain gives power to government bodies to seize private property without owner’s consent.

American Lake Water Co. continues to contend the agency has cost taxpayers "over $1 million" in growing legal costs and the company has challenged the water agency to present a business plan for water services that would result in lower rates.

“The court’s decision to reimburse our company’s legal fees following the dismissal of the initial suit by the Northern Will County Water Agency further proves our point," Michael Smyth, spokesperson for American Lake Water Company, wrote in an email to Suburban Life. "... We reiterate our request that the agency come forward with their plans to lower water rates prior to spending any additional taxpayer dollars.”

The mayors of the five agency towns say their ownership of the pipeline would result in lower water bills, though the agency has yet to propose how it can do that.

The effort is in response to continued water rate hikes from Illinois American Water – a sister company of American Lake Water – that have brought the cost of water to "unprecedented levels," according to the agency.

Obtaining ownership of the pipeline from the privately owned water company would “eliminate the profit motive inherent in private ownership,” the lawsuit states.

Agency expenditures are divided among the five agency communities based on their number of IAW customers.

The Village of Bolingbrook is responsible for the bulk of the costs (78.7 percent), followed by Homer Glen (20.5 percent). The villages of Woodridge (.684 percent), Lemont (.059 percent) and Romeoville (.022 percent) are responsible for the other less than 1 percent of costs.

A court date has not yet been set for the eminent domain lawsuit.

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