Residents of the Fairmont community are urging the Lockport Township board to allow the city of Joliet to take over their water system instead of selling it to a private company.
Lockport Township Supervisor Ronald Alberico said the board has been weighing the decision for years because it isn’t suited to run a water system. Alberico said Aqua Illinois, one of the private water companies serving several communities throughout the state, made an offer to the township about three months ago, and since then the township has delayed agreeing to it. He said he fears that if the township continues to delay, then Aqua Illinois might no longer be interested.
Lockport Township also approached the city of Joliet about taking over the system. Alberico said he thinks Joliet running the system would be the best option, but he said he worries that if the Joliet City Council doesn’t approve a deal, then the township wouldn’t have many other options. The city of Lockport already told the township it had no interest in running the system.
“I don’t want to commit unless I have something in store,” Alberico said. “If [Joliet decides] not to, I don’t want to lose the option of privatizing.”
Fairmont residents such as DeLinda Herod, head of the Fairmont Community Partnership Group, spoke at a meeting of the township’s water board Monday, urging members to allow the city of Joliet to manage the water system. She and her neighbors worry about having to pay higher prices to a private company over which they would have no electoral influence.
“Please hear us tonight,” Herod told the board. “We want Joliet, not Aqua, to manage our system.”
Joliet Utilities Director Allison Swisher also was at the meeting to answer questions from the township board. Although she said she couldn’t speak for members of the Joliet City Council, she said interim City Manager Marty Shanahan and Mayor Bob O’Dekirk were in favor of taking over the system.
In addition, the city identified about $3.5 million in improvements to make to the water system. Alberico said it was his understanding Will County would be able to provide funds to start making those improvements.
Alberico said the township is taking the decision seriously, but the decision is with Joliet and Will County. The township has given Joliet until April to come up with plans for an intergovernmental agreement that Alberico could bring for a vote to his board. But he still worries the township doesn’t have much time to come up with a plan.
“Our backs are up against the wall,” he said.