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Rise in Tinley Park Water Rates Flows From Chicago Price Hike

With Tinley Park among the suburbs dependent on Chicago to pump Lake Michigan water to them, local residents will pay more along with city dwellers.

residents will be joining a litany of other suburban communities that will be footing the bill—at least in part—for Chicago's suffering infrastructure. 

were effective Jan. 1. They will help meet an increase in the cost of Lake Michigan water that's due to a new rate imposed by the City of Chicago, local officials have said.

The rate change means that a typical household with a family of four averaging 18,000 gallons of water use per three months will see an increase of $16.28 on a quarterly bill, according to village documents.

The village is among a dozen suburbs that participate in a supply agreement where Chicago sends Lake Michigan water through its infrastructure to Oak Lawn. Oak Lawn then supplies it to the other 11 communities, which include New Lenox, Mokena, Orland Park and Oak Forest. 

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel attributed the increase to a need for rebuilding aging infrastructure, though that won’t be to the benefit of the suburbs, which rely on their own distribution system once the water has been moved.

"The Chicago end of it is what he have a certain percentage of," Mayor Ed Zabrocki said last month. "We have X amount of water that goes through that filtration plant. … That's the portion we should be responsible for. We should pay our share for what it costs to bring our portion of water from 2 miles out in the lake to Oak Lawn."

Chicago is also scheduled to raise its rates by about 15 percent in 2013, 2014 and 2015, Zabrocki said. He said the total increase through 2015 will amount to about 43 percent. 

"All your communities pass that cost on to the residents," he said. "You can't solely absorb that as a municipality because you're talking about some serious dollars."

While alternative sources of water have been discussed among participants in Oak Lawn’s distribution—getting water from Hammond, Ind., or the Kankakee River, for instance—continuing with the current system remains the best choice, Orland Park Village Manager Paul Grimes said.

“Right now they are passing to us the same rate as Chicago residents,” Grimes said. “It’s awfully hard to accept that that would be the same rate we should pay for our water. Chicago has its own needs. They distribute the water to their customers but the costs should not be foisted upon the suburban communities.”

He said a wholesale rate, instead of the current retail rate Chicago charges its own residents, should be what suburbs are charged. The wholesale rate would be built on actual costs of drawing water, treating it and shipping it to Oak Lawn.

“When rates were low, no one cared about a retail rate,” Grimes said. “But if they keep going up we need justification. That’s what the wholesale price can do. “

Oak Lawn also charges a water rate for the arrangement. That rate decreased by 13 cents per 1,000 gallons—from 17 cents to 4 cents—compared to 2011, though Chicago’s rate increased by 50 cents.

Bills will be based on usage so local officials are urging residents to conserve water when possible.

New rates will not be reflected on January's statements, but bills received in February will include rate changes for the month of January. A full, three-month rate increase will be reflected on April bills.

For most residential customers in Tinley Park, the 2012 rate structure is as follows:

  • Water: Base charge $27.28 plus $4.19 per 1,000 gallons for up to the first 20,000 gallons and $6.13 per 1,000 gallons for use of more than 20,000 gallons.
  • Sewer: Base charge $6 plus 95 cents per 1,000 gallons.
  • Storm water: Base charge $1.68 plus 28 cents per 1,000 gallons of usage of more than 6,000 gallons.

Orland Park Local Editor Ben Feldheim contributed to this report.

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Summer January 05, 2012 at 01:29 PM
I sure wish my income was increasing so that I can pay for all of these price increases! Gas - predicted - $5.00 a gallon but already too high, health insurance, food! Cut back - how do you do that when I have already stopped newspaper delivery, sold my jewelry, can't afford home repairs, reduced my 401K contribution so I can have more money on my check so I can afford all of these increases. This is nuts people! How much more can we cut out of our lives?
Sgt. USMC January 06, 2012 at 02:40 AM
I agree Summer. The price increase is to help the "aging infrastructure". But that doesn't help the suburbs, so we should not pay that price increase. Residents in Chicago can pay for their own repairs, they don't pay for ours. It is getting to the point where we can hardly live off of good wages because everything is so expensive. Makes me want to become a mountain man and live off the wild.

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