Evanston’s path toward selling water to other communities twisted in yet another direction at the Jan. 13 City Council meeting, as two new communities have expressed interest in purchasing Lake Michigan water from Evanston. Council voted to amend the engineering study completed in December 2012 to add those communities. The cost of the amended study, not-to-exceed $24,600, will be split among the five participating communities, including Evanston.
New to the study will be Glenview and Morton Grove, joining Park Ridge and Niles. Dropping out, apparently, is Des Plaines. Lincolnwood remains interested but would be served by a separate supply line because of geographic proximity.
The December, 2012, study indicated that a water main supplying the original four communities would cost about $235 million to construct. City Utilities Director Dave Stoneback, speaking in February 2013 after the study’s release, Evanston expects the communities served to pay for the transmission pipes. Evanston would have to pay for any required upgrades to Evanston’s water plant.
“This is very exciting,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, during the Jan. 13 Administration and Public Works Committee meeting.
“Yes, we are very excited,” said Mr. Stoneback. “We provided [the four communities] with a cost per 1,000 gallons” and they then agreed to proceed with the modified transmission study. Mr. Stoneback did not reveal the cost per 1,000 gallons quoted. Evanston residents currently pay $2.65 per 1,000 gallons after a 10 percent increase that went into effect Jan. 1. City Staff has indicated that they expect to request another 10 percent increase for 2015, and yet another 10 percent hike for 2016.
According to the staff memo accompanying the transmission study amendment agenda item, the City expects the amended study to be completed by March 7. At that point, Glenview, Morton Grove, Park Ridge and Niles will know a proposed cost per 1,000 gallons of water plus the approximate cost of debt service for the hundreds of millions it would take to construct the infrastructure necessary to delivery that water to them.
Whether the City would generate sufficient revenue from water sales to cover the cost of water plant upgrades and the cost of supplying water has not yet been established. After all the studies are complete and the costumer list established, the City should have enough information to know what water sales would actually mean to the water department’s bottom line, and, by extension, to water rates paid by Evanston residents.