Although drinking water for most Mokena homes and businesses passes through Chicago, Oak Lawn and Tinley Park on its path from Lake Michigan, the price hike Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed would hit Mokena residents the same day.
"Part of our agreement is that whatever Chicago does with their water rate immediately flows through to all of our communities," Mokena Mayor Joe Werner said.
About 6,500 homes and businesses in are on Lake Michigan water, Village Administrator John Downs said. Those residents, as do all suburban residents who get their water from Chicago, currently pay $2.01 per 1,000 gallons of water.
If Emanual's plan comes to pass, that $2.01 will rise to $2.51 on Jan. 1, 2012, with hikes each New Years for the next three years.Rate (per 1,000 gal.) Date $2.01 Now $2.51 Jan. 1, 2012 $2.88 Jan. 1, 2013 $3.31 Jan. 1, 2014 $3.81 Jan. 1, 2015
"It's a pretty substantial hit and it's going to be a tough pill for not only Chicago residents but for people in the suburbs as well," Werner said.
The $2.01 is just for the water itself, Downs said. The total water bill in Mokena is $4.96 per 1,000 gallons, with the rest going toward maintenance, bond services and the other costs of getting that water to your home.
Those other costs should stay the same for now, Downs said.
On average, a Mokena home uses 7,000 to 9,000 gallons a month of water in a non-summer month, Downs said.
Except for the 180 Mokena homes and businesses (mostly homes) still on well water, Mokena buys its water from Tinley Park, which bought it from Oak Lawn, which bought it from Chicago, which pumped it from the lake.
Downs said Mokena has to have two sets of contracts; one with Tinley Park for the water, one with Oak Lawn for the bond services and other costs of getting that water to town.
Despite the number of towns and intergovernmental agreements involved between Lake Michigan and your tap, all Mokena's contracts have a clause that any rate hike by Chicago would immediately hit Mokena, rather than temporarily sticking Oak Lawn with the hike.
"A supplier realistically couldn’t assume the risk of having to accommodate an unknown increase," Downs said. "It's a pretty standard clause."
But that doesn't mean Mokena residents will see a hike in their water bill that same day. Downs said the village would take "a month or two or three" to notify residents about the hike before it appears on the bill.
Werner said if Emanuel can demonstrate that the hike is needed for 47 percent of the infrastructure improvements Rahm wants, Mokena has no choice but to comply.
"My only hope is that this will cause people or force people to look a little harder at water conservation," Werner said.