Candidates differ on whether MWRD land should be leased out or sold

  • This site along Barrington Road near Irving Park Road in Hanover Park is among property the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago owns and leases out, which one candidate believes is a practice that should end.

    This site along Barrington Road near Irving Park Road in Hanover Park is among property the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago owns and leases out, which one candidate believes is a practice that should end. DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO 2012

  • Mariyana Spyropoulos

    Mariyana Spyropoulos

  • George Milkowski

    George Milkowski

 
 
Updated 11/1/2016 8:09 PM

A Green Party candidate for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago said the agency's land ownership and leasing practices are not providing full value to taxpayers, while the board president believes the land's value is in flood control.

George Milkowski of Chicago said MWRD receives small amounts for the leased properties compared to their current values. One example is a lease expiring next year that began in 1918 for which MWRD has received $3,800 when that property now is valued at about $3.8 million.

 

"I have been attending most of the district's meetings for the past four years and time after time the MWRD opts to lease its land, usually for 39 years," said Milkowski. "When there is a proposal to lease land, there is invariably a line from the legal department that maintains that the land is 'not needed for the corporate purposes.' This type of action ignores the law. Think about it. If you have something in your home that you don't expect to use for at least 39 years, would you keep it?" he said.

Last year, MWRD made about $20 million from leases of MWRD-owned land scattered throughout Cook County. The MWRD board's primary responsibilities are overseeing the treatment of about 1 billion gallons of water daily and flood mitigation programs in Cook County, including the Northwest suburbs.

The MWRD property that Milkowski mentions is adjoining waterways that MWRD must maintain access to, said board President Mariyana Spyropoulos of Chicago, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 8.

"With the increase in green infrastructure and local municipal stormwater projects with which MWRD assists, access to land, and the ownership of that land, is necessary," said Spyropoulos.

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The number of projects has increased over the last few years and, as a result, incidents of flooding have decreased, she said.

"We are committed to continue to work closely with municipalities in Cook County on projects that assist with stormwater management," Spyropoulos said.

Milkowski joins other Green Party candidates Karen Roothaan and Michael Smith as well as Democrats Spyropoulos, Barbara McGowan and Josina Morita, all seeking three seats with six-year terms on Nov. 8. Democrat Martin J. Durkan and Green Party candidates Christopher Anthony and Herb Shumann also are competing for one seat with a two-year term.

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