In the early 1980s, Homewood voters made a decision that directly affects the cost of water in Homewood and Flossmoor today: They decided to switch from well water to Lake Michigan water.
The vote wasn’t even close.
Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld said the referendum passed with 90 percent or more of the votes in favor of the switch.
“It was overwhelming to go to Lake Michigan water,” he said.
Lake water quality is much better than well water, according to village officials. It has much less mineral content, so it requires less treatment for hardness.
Lake water also is easier on home water appliancees. Some long-time residents say it was a common sight when Homewood was on well water to see worn out water heaters on the curb for trash pick-up, victims of the sediments the water.
At one time, though, those wells were the most practical option for providing residents with clean water.
Voters approved the first publicly financed water system in 1910 by a margin similar to the 1980s referendum, according to local historian Jim Wright in his book, “Homewood Through the Years.”
The vote for a $5,000 bond issue was 116 in favor and 14 against.
The money was used to build an 80,000-gallon water tank and sink a 10-inch diameter well, completed in 1911. That same year, five miles of water mains were installed at a cost of about $21,811, paid for by a special property tax assessment.
Wright notes that Homewood had to invest in water infrastructure again in the 1950s, a time of explosive population growth. Homewood started the decade with a population of 5,863 and ended it with 13,371.
The village’s first full-time manager, Alan Webster, was hired in 1953, and his first major project was to improve the water system.
Voters approved a $1.6 million bond issue in 1955, and that paid for the replacement of the 1927 sewage plant on 191st Street, eight miles of new mains, new wells and more storage capacity, according to Wright.
The result was a system with a storage capacity of 1.3 million gallons, seven wells and four water tower.