The City has been valiantly trying to find additional customers for Lake Michigan water pumped ashore through Evanston’s water plant for years. Utilities Director Dave Stoneback updated City Council on those efforts again at the July 21 City Council meeting.
The update focused on Skokie, Park Ridge, Morton Grove, Niles and Lincolnwood.
Skokie is an existing customer, but its contract expires in 2017. The expiring contract has long been viewed as a contract unfavorable to the City of Evanston, to the extent that during her first mayoral campaign Elizabeth Tisdahl stated one of her goals was to renegotiate the contract. Mr. Stoneback said the City has "already notified them that we will not automatically renew" the contract. Instead, any new contract will set water rates according to standards established by the American Water Works Association rather than the lower, flat rate under the expiring deal.
Telling Skokie at this early stage that rates will rise "gives them plenty of time to make a decision," said Mr. Stoneback.
Evanston submitted its "best and final offer " to Lincolnwood in December 2013, said Mr. Stoneback. The Village has hired an engineering consultant to represent them, but they use only two million gallons per day and a contract with them would not significantly increase City revenue as a result, he said.
What is really in play, Mr. Stoneback said, is the Morton Grove-Park Ridge-Niles triumvirate. He presented Evanston-produced "Projected Cost Savings" on July 21 for those three communities should they purchase Evanston water instead of Chicago or Glenview-Wilmette water.
Each community would save between $1.27 and $1.45 million in wholesale water costs the first year, the presentation states. Savings really ramp up once the multi-million infrastructure, in the form of water pipes from Evanston to those communities, are paid off in 20 years. In years 20-30, Park Ridge stands to save $6 to $7 million per year.
"I expect they’ll come around," said Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward. "I don’t see how they can turn away from the long-term savings."
"The problem is the capital costs," said Mr. Stoneback. "The best thing Evanston can do is take on some of the [infrastructure] debt."