Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Pantle ruled last week that Harvey must pay for an assessment of its water system and make necessary repairs at the request of Homewood and other downstream towns.
The Dec. 6 court order is the latest development in a more than four year back-and-forth between Harvey and the municipalities to which it sells water.
Pantle ruled in July that an independent receiver, Robert Handler, would take control of Harvey’s water finances and water-related assets after the city illegally used millions of dollars paying for expenses that were not water related.
Harvey owes millions more in back payments to Chicago for Lake Michigan water.
Harvey then sells the water to other south suburban towns, including Homewood. Homewood continues the chain, selling water to Flossmoor.
Following a January court ruling, these downstream municipalities began making payments for water directly to Chicago. The latest ruling orders them to again make the payments to Harvey through the receiver. The Homewood village board is expected to approve a $334,883.63 payment when it pays the village’s bills at the Dec. 12 meeting.
Handler is the only person who will have access to the Harvey water account, Homewood Village Attorney Christopher Cummings said.
A clause in a previous ruling allowed downstream towns to put a portion of water payments —about 10.5 percent— in escrow to pay for repairs and maintenance to the Harvey water system infrastructure. The Dec. 6 ruling ordered those funds be paid to the receiver.
Homewood commissioned engineering firm Baxter and Woodman to inspect Harvey’s water infrastructure between September 2014 and November 2015. Much of that inspection couldn’t be done or was delayed because Harvey did not supply requested information and limited access to some facilities.
It was determined that at least three Harvey reservoirs, holding a total of 14.8 million gallons of water, were in need of roof repairs. In August, Homewood and Hazel Crest asked the court to make maintenance of the Harvey water system mandatory. The latest ruling requires an assessment by a civil engineer by March 31.
“We spent $84,000 of Homewood’s money back in 2015 and we’re not going to pay for that again,” Cummings said. “That’s something that the receiver should be doing.
“They’re going to have to figure out how to get things fixed.”
Each downstream municipality has a meter at the town border to measure the water coming in from Harvey. Homewood has at least two of those meters, Cummings said, but both are aging. Those meters will be replaced by the city of Harvey but at Homewood’s* expense so that a more accurate measurement can be made.
Harvey officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
* Correction: This story originally stated that Harvey would pay for the new meters.