Cortland doesn't want proposed water authority telling it what to do

CORTLAND - The board of trustees expressed worry and disgust Monday over a proposed regional water authority that could regulate the town's ability to drill new wells to accommodate its rising population. Water Superintendent Harry Zimmer said he wants to get the necessary state permits for a planned well before summer, in case a group trying to create a water authority over DeKalb, Boone and McHenry counties gets the authority established in the spring election. “I think it's pretty urgent we get that well permitted at least, because everything bigger than a residential well, they want to have a say in whether you can drill it or not," Zimmer said. Trustees had harsh words for the proposed Kishwaukee Valley Water Authority and dismissed the McHenry County-based group behind it - called the Alliance for Land, Agriculture and Water, or A-LAW - as outsiders trying to regulate growth in DeKalb County. “They're sticking their nose in something that's not their business," Trustee Randy Reiter said. “It's a bunch of people from outside the area coming in and telling us what to do. They can kiss my behind." Trustees Chuck Lanning and Dan Milroy said the town should get as much information about the potential authority out to the public as possible. “What's sad is John Q. Citizen could vote for this without having all the information," Lanning said. If petitions submitted Nov. 17 by A-LAW are approved by a DeKalb County judge, a referendum would appear on the April 17 ballot asking voters to approve the creation of the water authority. Under state law, such authorities can regulate large-scale uses of groundwater through a well-licensing process. Also Monday, Town Engineer Tom Simmons said he has not given up hope that an industrial company that has expressed interest in the town might still locate there. Prospects seem to have dimmed for Chicago-based RCI Construction, because the company reportedly requires a railroad track linking its site with the Union Pacific line, and laying the track will cost the town more than $2 million. “We're still having a difficult time figuring out how we're going to get this railroad built and paid for," Simmons said. He said he was investigating the possibility of selling industrial bonds that could be paid back with sales tax revenue from the site. He has projected that RCI could generate between $1 million and $3 million in sales taxes annually once it reaches full operation. “We'll pay a percentage of the sales tax if that's what it takes," he said. “We do not want to lose this industry." Union Pacific reportedly refused to foot the bill for laying the side track, because the company would not move enough freight on it for the track to be profitable for the railroad. A request last month to zone the 40-acre site southwest of town for industrial development was withdrawn, and a state agency withdrew a grant it had awarded for the project because it said the company had dropped plans to locate in Cortland. Simmons told trustees he is still working with other state agencies and has been in touch with state and federal legislators in his quest for funds. “The Department of Transportation railroad division said they won't have any money available until '08," he said. “We spoke with (U.S. Rep. Denny) Hastert's office, and they said maybe '08. But this industry wants to move now." Also Monday, about 20 spectators turned out to see the board recognize resident Elroy Overton with the DeLaine Mullis Outstanding Citizen Award. The annual award is presented to someone who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to the town. Overton spent 44 years on the Cortland Fire Department, 21 as chief, and also served as a trustee on the Cortland Fire Protection District. He also is a former town trustee and a charter member of the Cortland Lions Club. “Elroy is a prime example of what this award represents," Mayor Bob Seyller said. “The commitment and dedication to our community Elroy has shown over the years should inspire all of us." Dana Herra can be reached at