A Guest Essay by City Manager Erika Storlie
On April 19, the Skokie Village Board approved a new long-term water contract with the City of Evanston through which Evanston will continue to supply Skokie homes and businesses with high-quality, reliable drinking water at a rate that is fair to taxpayers of both of our communities. This Monday, the contract will be introduced to the Evanston City Council for consideration.
Here are a few reasons why Evanston residents should be pleased with the proposed contract:
It establishes a water rate consistent with American Water Works Association (AWWA) methodology.
Evanston’s previous contract with Skokie, from 1997 to 2017, tied annual rate increases to inflation measures. Although this may have accounted for increases in operating and maintenance expenses, it did not properly reimburse the City for funds spent on capital improvement projects during this time period. The new proposed contract takes these costs into consideration and ensures that Skokie customers share the burden of investments into the Evanston water system.
Under the proposed contract, Skokie customers will pay an initial water rate of $1.26 per 1,000 gallons in 2021, representing a 16% increase from the rate Skokie paid per the previous contract. The rate will increase to $1.40 in 2022 and $1.43 in 2023, with future rate increases clearly defined and consistent with the AWWA recommendations.
Further, following a consistent rate methodology across all of our wholesale water contracts will benefit the City as it negotiates future water supply contracts with new and existing wholesale water customers.
It helps keep Evanston water rates low.
This year, the City completed replacement of a massive five-million gallon water storage clearwell at a cost of $20 million. City staff estimate that the debt service associated with this critical capital improvement project will be entirely offset by increased revenue generated from the City’s wholesale water customers, including Skokie under the new proposed contract, after this asset is incorporated into their supply rates. Evanston residents will not see their water rates increase as a result of this $20 million project.
It reimburses Evanston for water provided from 2017 to 2021.
Under the proposed contract, the Village of Skokie will pay the City of Evanston more than $4.2 million for water provided to Skokie homes and businesses from October 2017 through January 2021. This amount is based on a water rate fluctuating between $1.19 and $1.36 per 1,000 gallons during this time period, and accounts for both decreased costs to Skokie as new wholesale water customers were added, and increased costs to Skokie as capital improvement projects were completed.
It reduces liability for the City of Evanston.
Under the previous contract, Evanston was responsible for maintaining and adjusting water pressure throughout Skokie’s water distribution system. Under the new agreement, Evanston is only required to maintain water at a minimum pressure at the Emerson/McCormick delivery point.
It restores Evanston Fire Department access to Skokie’s firefighter training tower.
As part of the proposed contract, the Evanston Fire Department will once again be able to access Skokie’s firefighter training tower, helping Evanston firefighters improve their skills while also improving the safety of our community. As firefighters are often called to assist with critical incidents in neighboring communities, this is good news for Skokie residents, too.
After undergoing a mediated negotiation process, City and Village administrators believe this new proposed contract is a fair deal for residents of both of our communities. Further, it sets the stage for a continued strong partnership between our communities in the years to come. That’s something we should all raise our glasses to.
Ms. Storlie is Evanston’s City Manager.