Round Lake Heights residents again asked to fund water system

 
 
Updated 2/26/2019 5:36 PM
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  • For the second time since November, Round Lake Heights residents are being asked to fund water system improvements.

      For the second time since November, Round Lake Heights residents are being asked to fund water system improvements. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

A close vote in November has prompted Round Lake Heights officials to again ask voters for $2.7 million to build a village-controlled water system.

The question on the April 2 ballot is the same and so are the arguments in asking for a tax hike that would amount to $388 per year for the owner of a house valued at $200,000.

Village officials maintain that a direct village connection to Lake Michigan water and a 1.5 million gallon tower to store it will provide control over future rates, ensure a more consistent flow with fewer interruptions and improve safety by eliminating potential pressure drops in the event of an emergency.

Round Lake Heights has its own backup well system, which can meet every day needs. But that system becomes challenged to provide adequate pressure to meet higher demands in the event of a water main break or large building fire, according to the village.

In November, the question was narrowly defeated -- 338 against and 304 in favor -- in what was considered a high voter turnout for the village of about 2,700 residents.

"Nobody wants a tax increase, I get it. But I want to make sure they understand the benefits," Mayor Terrance Lumpkins said. "What I'm doing is reaching out to people voting against something because they don't understand it," he added.

As proposed, the village would borrow $2.7 million by issuing bonds to be paid off over 20 years to cover the cost of the system. That would involve installing about 4,300 feet of pipe to connect directly to Lake Michigan water provided by the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency and building a water tower to store it.

Round Lake Heights has been buying Lake Michigan water from Round Lake Beach for many years, and pays Round Lake Beach a transmission fee of 91 cents per 1,000 gallons.

Updated information to be sent to residents shows the village estimates spending $17,600 annually on water tank maintenance or about 40 cents per 1,000 gallons with its own direct connection to Lake Michigan water. That would provide an adequate cushion and the village does not anticipate raising rates for maintenance in the near future, according to Lumpkins.

If approved, the current special service area fees for the Pasquinelli and Neumann home subdivisions would be eliminated to reduce the overall tax burden within those subdivisions, according to the village.

Lumpkins said there is no right or wrong decision, and the village will continue to fight to control rates if voters reject the measure.

"We have a very good relationship with the community (Round Lake Beach) but administrations change," Lumpkins said. "If their rate doubles or triples, we have no control over it. This way, we'll be totally independent."

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