Johnsburg: New water tower plan would not use tax dollars to pay back bonds

Construction could begin in spring for tower that would serve new construction, downtown, existing homes

This Northwest Herald file photo shows an entry sign for the village of Johnsburg.

Johnsburg’s municipal water system needs an additional water tower for the proposed Redwood housing development, and the Village Board has approved the first step toward an eventual bond sale to fund the project.

If the board finalizes plans for that bond sale, the water and sewer revenue bonds would be paid off using developer donations, tap-on fees and user fees from those ultimately connected to the village’s water system, Johnsburg officials said.

Commenting via social media posts, some residents voiced concerns that the village would use general taxpayer funds or approve a bond sale without going to a referendum.

Connection fees from the development will be utilized to help subsidize the cost of the elevated storage tank.”

—  Johnsburg Village President Ed Hettermann

The village will not use general funds or property tax to pay off the bonds, Village Administrator Claudett Sofiakis said.

Village President Ed Hettermann addressed the question in a Nov. 30 village newsletter emailed to residents.

“Connection fees from the development will be utilized to help subsidize the cost of the elevated storage tank,” Hettermann wrote.

The ordinance approved by the board in November may have been confusing, Sofiakis said.

As it appeared on the village meeting agenda, the ordinance refers to “water and sewer revenue bonds or, in lieu thereof, general obligation bonds (alternate revenue source).”

A 500,000-gallon water tower is currently estimated to cost $5.5 million, said Tim Hartnett, the village’s contract engineer from the firm HR Green.

The Redwood developers would pay about $1.5 million of the total cost via impact fees, and user fees within the development would add another $75,000 a year toward the bond repayment schedule, as would user fees from developments that tap into water coming off the tower.

The total bond service cost is expected to be about $200,000 over the life of the bonds and covered by users on the system.

Redwood, Sofiakis said, also would be responsible for laying the water main from the tower to its development.

In addition to the Redwood development, the water tower would serve the Shiloh Ridge subdivision, Berkshire Apartments and downtown Johnsburg, Hartnett said.

If the water tower is built, the west side of Johnsburg also then would have fire suppression from its fire hydrants, Hartnett said.

“There are fire hydrants now, but those are purely for flushing” the water lines, not for fire suppression, Hartnett said.

The McHenry Township Fire Protection District cannot connect to those hydrants if a fire were to break out there and would have to tanker in water from other locations, he said.

A water tower would provide the needed pressure for fire hydrants, Hartnett said.

Residents on the west side already on the city water system also would see improved water pressure from the gravity-fed water system, officials said.

One of the largest beneficiaries of the new water tower would be downtown Johnsburg, Sofiakis said.

Currently, many downtown businesses still are on private wells and do not have fire suppression because of the low water pressure, Sofiakis said.

Getting the area on municipal water has been a priority “for many years” and is part of the area’s overall strategic plan, she said.

She said there’s at least one business that wanted to expand but couldn’t move forward because the village could not provide water and sewer at the time.

“They needed to be able to sprinkle, but our water lines did not extend to them,” Sofiakis said. “There was a real risk of losing that business. We don’t want to see that happen.”

A public hearing on the possible bond sale was held during Tuesday’s Village Board meeting, and a final bond ordinance could be ready for the Jan. 24 meeting.

The bond sale could come within two weeks of that date.