Niles and Morton Grove hire consulting firm to study alternative option in Evanston water deal

Billy Kobin, Reporter

Two nearby municipalities have hired a consulting firm to consider a revision to their plan to purchase water from Evanston that would utilize an existing water line in Skokie instead of building a new pipeline.

Niles and Morton Grove have hired Stanley Consultants, Inc., a consulting firm with an office in Chicago, to determine the feasibility of receiving water from Evanston using the existing Evanston and Skokie water distribution systems as much as possible, local officials said.

Dave Stoneback, director of Evanston’s Public Works Agency, said in an email to The Daily that representatives from the parties involved met Monday to discuss the option of using the Skokie distribution system, and the plan seems possible.

“Some new infrastructure would be required in Skokie, but the cost to build this new infrastructure would be less than building a new transmission line all the way to the Evanston water treatment plant,” Stoneback said.

The consulting firm is expected to finish its study by the beginning of February, said Ralph Czerwinski, the village administrator of Morton Grove.

Czerwinski said he believes the option of using Skokie’s distribution system is feasible and cost-effective, though the final cost estimates of that option are yet to be announced.

“Using the existing infrastructure seems to be a prudent move,” he said. “I think that we have to look at all of the alternatives. We have to look at the reliability of that (option) and understand the near-term and long-term costs.”

Negotiations between the municipalities and Park Ridge, another nearby suburb, on building a new water pipeline had progressed up until October, when Niles and Morton Grove officials said they were instead going to pursue a plan that did not involve building a $115 million water pipeline to connect all the way to Evanston’s water treatment plant.

The plan to tap into Skokie’s water would not, at the moment, be able to include sending water to Park Ridge, Stoneback said. There is a chance that if Niles and Morton Grove choose to appropriate the existing pipeline, it would not be possible for the delivery system to support Park Ridge, officials said.

Nothing has been finalized, however, and some officials, like Niles Mayor Andrew Przybylo, said they would prefer that Park Ridge be included in the plan, as costs would be lower if another municipality were included to share the financial burden.

The overarching reason for purchasing water from the city is that Evanston’s water is sold at a cheaper rate than Chicago’s water, which is what Niles and the other suburbs involved in the plan currently use, Przybylo said.

Przybylo added that a decision on these water options is needed as soon as possible, as Morton Grove’s current water contract with Chicago expires in 2018 and Niles’ contract with Chicago expires in 2019.

Czerwinski also said a decision is needed soon but not without careful thought and research into all options.

“We think that within the next six months we need to understand what our alternatives are so that there is sufficient time to do some construction,” Czerwinski said.

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