Evanston is still talking to several communities about supplying them with water — but aldermen were told this week that none of the other towns have yet made any commitments.
Utilities Director Dave Stoneback says consultants hired by Morton Grove, Niles and Park Ridge have told them buying water from Evanston would be cheaper than getting it from Wilmette and Glenview — even after accounting for the higher cost of a supply line from Evanston..
But Wilmette and Glenview only have the capacity to serve Morton Grove and Niles. And if Park Ridge doesn’t join the other two in signing up for Evanston water, the capital cost to the remaining two towns would rise — which is making all the players reluctant to commit.
Stoneback also claimed that Wilmette doesn’t have enough treatment plant capacity to to meet peak day demands for all the proposed customers and that Wilmette, unlike Evanston, hasn’t addressed winter icing issues on its intake pipes that could sharply reduce water production.
He also argued that Wilmette and Glenview have failed to include needed long-term capital improvements in their proposed rates.
Meanwhile, Evanston’s largest current customer, the Northwest Water Commission, has joined with the Northwest Suburban Municipal Joint Action Water Agency to explore piping in water from Glencoe.
But Stoneback says NWC officials have told him that even if they go with that plan to have a second water source, they’ll continue to purchase as much water as possible from Evanston because of Evanston’s low rate.
After several months of silence, Stoneback says, Lincolnwood recently resumed talks with Evanston and has hired an engineering firm to assess its water supply options.
And Evanston recently sent a letter to Skokie, its oldest wholesale water customer, that it will insist on new, higher rates to renew that contract, which is scheduled to expire in February 2017.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said despite the complexity, the expansion of service is worth pursuing, because Evanston stands to earn a 10 percent rate of return on the water it provides other turns — which could help cover capital costs for Evanston’s water plant or other city projects.
Stoneback said that by setting rates based on a formula created by the American Water Works Association the city should be safe from challenges to the fairness of its rates.
He said the City of Chicago — whose recent sharp rate increases have driven other suburban communities to look to Evanston as a possible supplier — has successfully defended a court challenge to its rate hikes by justifying them based on the AWWA formulas.