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Harrisburg approves 40-year deal for water

 
By Travis DeNeal tdeneal@dailyregister.com
Posted on 9/12/2018, 12:33 PM

HARRISBURG -- The Harrisburg city council has approved a new 40-year contract with Saline Valley Conservancy District, over the concerns of one council member who fears the city is rushing into a long-term contract.

Council members voted 3-2 to approve a new 40-year contract with its water supplier.

The contract ensures that Saline Valley Conservancy District remains Harrisburg's sole water provider, and puts an end to months of bickering.

As the existing 40-year-contract was nearing its end, the city and Saline Valley sparred -- and Saline Valley filed a lawsuit against Harrisburg and the Liberty-Ledford Water District.

Saline Valley had sought to serve Liberty-Ledford directly and under the old contract, Liberty-Ledford bought its water from Harrisburg.

The new contract contains a provision whereby Saline Valley may serve existing and future customers south of its master meter on Liberty Road. SVCD will pay 42 cents per 1,000 gallons on any water passing through Harrisburg's system to the meter on Liberty Road.

Saline Valley also will allocate 300,000 gallons of its storage to its Equality water treatment plant to offset additional water storage needs.

The new contract also states the lawsuit will be dismissed with prejudice within 30 days of the contract's execution by both parties.

Councilman Richard Harper objected to Thursday's vote, saying he had questions about the agreement, and wanted some things deleted and other things added.

Uppermost among his concerns, he said, is a provision requiring Harrisburg to buy a minimum of 20 million gallons of water.

"It mentions exceptions for closing the Illinois Youth Center, Harrisburg Medical Center, Saline County, but I'm worried about the simple loss of population, what considerations can be done if that happens," Harper said.

Commissioner Mike Weirauch countered, "If we lose population to where we're not using 20 million gallons of water, we're all in bad shape."

"I know, but this doesn't address that," Harper said.

Weirauch, Mayor John McPeek and councilwoman Beth Montfort voted to approve the contract.

Harper and Councilwoman Natalie Miller voted no.

Miller said she had time to look at the contract only briefly, and like Harper, thought more time to examine it would be wise.

Harper said he agreed with Miller that this contract is an improvement over the initial proposal, but added he thinks clarifications are necessary before the city signed.

He voiced additional concerns about adequate pressure being provided to fill the city's elevated tank. The first draft called for 80 psi, but the current contract doesn't refer to that, he said.

He also questioned why SVCD employees are being given the right to access city-controlled water line rights of way and alleys as well as the city's portion of the bike path.

"Saline Valley Conservancy District has no pipes in our bike path. The piping that's there belongs to the city of Harrisburg," Harper said.

Weirauch said he is satisfied that the contract protects Harrisburg.

"I've had a chance to look at it closely. I came up and looked at it yesterday," Weirauch said.

Weirauch said he believes the contract will serve the city well. He added he wants the peace of mind that comes from Harrisburg having regular access to "the highest quality water in Illinois."

"When I go home at night and turn on the tap, I shouldn't have to worry about high-quality water coming out," Weirauch said.