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Flossmoor approves purchase agreement to get one step closer to new water source

Flossmoor’s long-in-the-works switch to a new water source is closer to being realized.

The Village Board voted unanimously Monday, Dec. 6, to approve a water sale and purchase agreement with the Village of Homewood. The water will still come from Lake Michigan, but through Hammond rather than Chicago, as it does now, and via Chicago Heights instead of Harvey before it gets to Homewood.

The Homewood Village Board approved the agreement at its Dec. 14 board meeting.

The agreement includes an initial base water rate of $4.75 per 1,000 gallons, according to a report to the board from Public Works Director John Brunke. The new rate includes Hammond’s base water rate of $2.05 per 1,000 gallons, a Chicago Heights delivery rate of $2 per 1,000 gallons and Homewood delivery rate of $.70 per 1,000 gallons.

“It’s good to know we’ll have a reasonable price for 25 years and we don’t have to worry about that,” Trustee George Lofton said.

“And a reasonable supplier,” Trustee James Mitros added.

The overall rate marks an increase from Flosmsoor’s current total purchase water rate from Homewood of $4.61 per 1,000 gallons, though Brunke said the village’s team finds the rates to be “very favorable.” The new rate is to take effect Jan. 1, 2023, or upon the commencement of water delivery by Chicago Heights to Homewood, whichever occurs first, according to Brunke.

Future increases are tied to the Consumer Price Index and capped at 3% annually, according to Village Manager Bridget Wachtel. Those increases will always be a minimum of 1%, per the agreement. Increases will take effect annually on the anniversary of the commencement of the new base rate, per the agreement. When the water was coming through Chicago, the increases would fluctuate anywhere from 3% to 25% annually, Wachtel said.

“To have some stability in our rate increase is a significant win for the community,” she said.

Flossmoor’s new deal with Homewood is to last 25 years, which is the same term of Homewood’s deal with Chicago Heights, Wachtel said. Mayor Michelle Nelson noted other options, such as Flossmoor trying to approach this change solo, could have cost $11 million to $13 million more.

“The cost of what we were going to have to do to go some other route was going exponentially more expensive to taxpayers, so this is a huge win for Flossmoor and all the taxpayers,” Trustee Brian Driscoll added.

Trustee Gary Daggett said, “A fringe benefit of this is it’s a great opportunity to strengthen our relationship with Homewood and other communities around us. All in all, it’s a win for everyone involved.”

Homewood is still finalizing the construction of its new water pumping station in Thornton, which is to pump water from the Chicago Heights transmission main to Homewood. With Illinois Environmental Protection Agency approvals, that water should be flowing by spring or summer of 2022, Brunke said.

Water tower lease amended for cell carrier
The board voted unanimously Dec. 6 to approve its consent agenda, which included the approval of a water tower lease agreement with Verizon. The cellular company has leased space on the Western Avenue Water Tower since 2005, and requested the addition of another cellular antenna there. The rent Flossmoor charges Verizon is to increase by $3,600 annually with the approval. The company already pays $62,365 per year for space on the tower.

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