City approves extension of Skokie water deal until new agreement is reached


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz speaks at a meeting. Bobkiewicz said the existing water contract with Skokie will be extended four months as a new contract is being negotiated.

Kristina Karisch, Assistant City Editor

The existing contract that allows Evanston to sell water to Skokie will be extended for four months as negotiations on a new contract continue, City Council decided Monday.

Aldermen on the Administration and Public Works Committee approved a plan set forward by city manager Wally Bobkiewicz to lengthen the term of the current contract until June 30, 2017. This extension comes as the current contract, which has been in place for the past 20 years, expires on Tuesday.

The contract extension is set to allow officials from both cities to further discuss terms, as the cities disagree over key points outlined in the new proposal, according to council documents.

“(Skokie officials feel) that the current mechanism for calculating the rate makes sense for them; we feel that it doesn’t,” Bobkiewicz told The Daily. “In our initial discussions with them over the past few months it’s become clear that we may not come to an agreement as to how that rate should be calculated.”

Bobkiewicz added that the key concerns for Evanston were the costs of transportation and pipe maintenance in addition to the rate for water. The water sold to Skokie is distributed across the Evanston border at three locations — Oakton Street, Emerson Street and Gross Point Road — and goes directly into Skokie pipes instead of being pumped through the village’s own distribution system.

The current contract calls for the wholesale water rate for Skokie to be increased to $1.08 per 1,000 gallons.

Evanston has been selling water to Skokie since 1944, according to city documents. In 1997, the current water contract was negotiated. Currently, Skokie’s pays for water at a rate of $1.06 per 1,000 gallons, compared to a rate of $3.81 per 1,000 gallons of water charged by Chicago.

In addition to Skokie, Evanston currently sells water to several municipalities that are part of the Northwest Water Commission. A 40-year water supply agreement with Niles and Morton Grove was approved during a City Council meeting on Jan. 23.

There are also ongoing talks with the village of Lincolnwood, Ill., whose water contract with Chicago is set to expire at the end of 2019. At a Feb. 13 City Council meeting, Bobkiewicz said he hopes to have an update on the discussion in March, after city staff have provided a proposed rate and delivery point — at Oakton Street and McCormick Boulevard — where Lincolnwood would build its own connection pipe.

If city officials are unable to reach an agreement by June 30, water sales would continue without a contract, Bobkiewicz told The Daily.

“What would likely happen is that we would start charging Skokie a new rate, without a contract, and at that point Skokie would have to decide if they were going to pay that rate or not,” he said. “We went through a similar exercise 20 years ago when this contract, which is expiring, was first put into place. It was adjudicated at the courts, and it may very well happen again.”

At the council meeting on Jan. 23, Tisdahl expressed her hopes that an agreement would be reached.

“I have no intention of turning off the spigot to Skokie,” Tisdahl said.

Twitter: @kristinakarisch