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Consultants study Flossmoor water supply routes

Two consulting services are joining the effort to decide the next water supply route for the village of Flossmoor. 

Services include Strand Associates, a firm that specializes in water supply, water quality, water treatment and distribution systems, and continued advising from Bill Balling, a retired Buffalo Grove city manager and owner of WRB, LLC Management Services.

The Flossmoor Village Board approved these expenses, including a $49,000 contract with Strand Associates and a $20,000 contract with Balling, during a Dec. 16 board meeting. 
Flossmoor’s water supply contract with the city of Harvey will expire in 2022. The village currently receives water from Homewood, which receives water from Harvey with a source supply to Chicago.

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Homewood has already taken steps to change its water supplier from Harvey to Chicago Heights, which receives water from Hammond, Indiana. The village is pursuing a new source of water out of concern about unpredictable rates  and concern about the physical and financial condition of Harvey’s water system.

Homewood currently pays $4.51 per 1,000 gallons. Baxter and Woodman Engineers determined if the cost of necessary improvements to Harvey’s infrastructure is included, the rate would be $5.16. 

Chicago Heights, which purchases its Lake Michigan water from Hammond, Ind., approached Homewood more than a year ago with an offer to sell water at $4.05 per 1,000 gallons. 

Public Works Director John Brunke explained that Flossmoor’s options have been narrowed down to two variations of the same supply source (Hammond via Chicago Heights) through different routes. 

The water would either come to Flossmoor from Chicago Heights through a direct connection down Vollmer Road, or it would come to Flossmoor from Chicago Heights through Homewood.

Brunke said consulting services are necessary because of the long-term impact of the decision. 

“Given the magnitude of our project and the length of our commitment for at least 20 to 40 years or beyond, an additional advocate looking out for our best interests is going to be very helpful,” Brunke said.

Trustee Jim Mitros said he agreed having Balling act as “a third set of eyes” would help the village make the right decision.

“I like the thought of having the extra layer because over time, in 20, 30 or 40 years, this doesn’t even matter,” he said. “It’s nothing (if we made the right choice), whereas if we made a mistake it could be very costly over that same amount of time.”                                  
Balling said his firm has been associated with the last five large regional water projects in the surrounding areas of Chicago. 

“I have a level of knowledge with regards to some of the landmines that exist out there with regards to cost structure, in the implementation of these plans and some of the things that would move this project ahead,” Balling said.

Village Manager Bridget Wachtel said Balling has been working with the village since July, and she attested to his usefulness through the process.

“This project quite frankly has taken a considerable amount of our time, as it should; it’s a very important decision,” she said. “To be able to spread that management assistance out to a third party I think provides us (with) some additional support, some additional analysis and another set of eyes.”

Brunke said that Strand Associates will conduct a new study to build upon the previous study completed by Baxter and Woodman Consulting Engineers. 

Baxter and Woodman’s study evaluated the feasibility and preliminary costs for obtaining water from multiple sources as options, Brunke said. The firm also performed considerable work on the village’s water supply system, including water modeling.

Balling said it is important for the village to make the right decision from a serviceability standpoint as well as an economic standpoint.

“The Baxter Woodman study was an important first step in terms of understanding the alternatives available, but it didn’t really zero in on the costs,” Balling said. “We’re at the cost phase now.”

Mayor Paul Braun added that Strand Associates would be able to help the village evaluate each route on a chemical level and to provide necessary data to the state.

“We’re at the point now where we really need to drill down into those two specific options,” Braun said.

He said that although the village would be going through Chicago Heights with either option, the question between the two routes comes down to what will be most cost effective.

“I think this particular engineering firm, based on Mr. Balling’s recommendation, has that expertise in order to push the ball forward for us to make a decision,” Braun said.

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