The Folly of Ald. Tisdahl’s Water Scheme >> The Bogus Plan to Break a Water Contract with Skokie


The local media has generally done a good job of covering the Evanston mayoral race, but they dropped the ball on questioning Ald. Tisdahl’s often repeated scheme to “break the water contract with Skokie.” The Alderman has built her mayoral campaign’s economic plan around a daffy idea to hire a lawyer to break an existing water contract between the City of Evanston and the Village of Skokie. The Alderman has suggested that if the City of Evanston -- presto -- could break its water contract with Skokie and sell water for four times the current rate, it could make more than $9-million annually. That’s an astounding claim from a candidate, especially one who supports a Climate Action Plan that seeks to REDUCE the amount of water the city uses and sells. You can’t have it both ways. But what’s worse, the Alderman, who often boasts about her contacts, never bothered to call the Mayor of Skokie, George Van Dusen, to discuss this reckless notion. I know this because I called Van Dusen myself, and he said >>
* No one from Evanston called him to discuss breaking or renegotiating the water contract
* Skokie and Evanston have a binding water contract
* He opposes breaking the contract and would challenge any such effort in the courts
* The Village of Skokie has invested funds in the joint water partnership with Evanston
So it turns out the that Alderman’s big economic idea is totally bogus, would likely COST the city legal fees, and has very little chance of ever becoming reality. It was nothing more than campaign fodder for the Alderman to float during the campaign forums, since she has no other ideas for how to manage the city’s budget and create new revenues.


    Those interested in this issue should know the facts.
     Consideration of Evanston's water contract capacity and delivery is already under discussion. On March 9 at the Administration and Public Works meeting, Item A-6 on the agenda was a proposed resolution, 15-R-09, which would have hired an attorney and an engineering firm to look into new (and possibly existing) water delivery contracts and capacity. Ald. Jean-Baptiste pointed out that the proposal doesn't say anything about severing existing contracts. After discussion in which it was decided that it made no sense to start engineering something that might not be legally feasible, the committee amended the resolution and passed it 5-0, authorizing the Interim City Manager and Department of Water and Sewer to prepare a search for an attorney or firm to pursue the viability of developing additional wholesale water customers.
     This item then appeared on the Consent Agenda at the Council meeting the same night and was removed from the Consent Agenda for discussion. The way it came out of committee – i.e., keeping the enginnering in committee but OK'g a search for counsel – it was approved unanimously on voice vote, Ald. Wollin moving and Ald. Rainey seconding.
     I have watched for an RFQ to appear in the Review or Roundtable but have not seen one, altho it's possible I've missed it.
     No doubt any purchasing suburb would at least threaten to oppose any move to charge higher rates, but there are grounds for at least looking into the issue, because on its face it is unfair -- not to mention un-"green" -- for Evanston to be forced to sell water to others for less than the cost of delivery.
     Water issues have been part of Evanston's history with its neighbors since the earliest days of Evanston. We almost annexed Wilmette at a point where we had a water works and they did not (every referendum to join the two communities failed either in Evanston or Wilmette, we could never get it together). I attended a session on World Water Day two weeks ago at which some of the issues involving regional water use were discussed; they are going to loom only larger in coming years.
     "Renegotiation" is not necessarily the same thing as "breaking a contract;" as we've seen with other local governmental contracts, new ones can be negotiated before an existing one expires. I haven't studied the existing contract, in the context of all other facets of water delivery, to see what if any leverage or incentives exist that might make such renegotiation productive right now, but lawyers can be creative from time to time. It might be in Skokie's interest as well as Evanston's, for example, to enter into a new contract now that eases in higher rates, rather than facing a massive increase in 2025.
     The City is following the prudent course by determining to first study the legal feasibility. The key to getting the correct answer is in making sure that the research is objective rather than designed to produce the answer the client wants to hear.

Jeff - you are missing the point - LIz is just making up an idea, so people think she is actually effective, no contract is going to be broken.
Jeff - bottomline with 16 years on the contract I doubt anyone is going to be ready to change it.  As a lawyer what does the city really have to neogotite here for a rate increase - I would say not a thing!
Further more Jeff, you appear not to have attended the meetings, bottomline due to less water use by residents, the revenues are down and this is why the city is wanting to raise the revenues.
Why do you think they hired a consultant to study all the ways they could raise the rates, then after the fact they come up with capital plan amounts - interesting like the chicken before the egg.
I doubt the cost of pumping and treating the water is that high, we all know the city is using the water bill for taxes, how many times have they taken funds from the water funds and transfered them?  Why the high sewerage charge? To pay off the bonds!
Jeff - if you had been to the meeting Mr Stonebeck was proposing increasing the size of the water plant to pump more water to new customers.   By the why if the city can not even come up with a concrete capital plan for its existing operation and plant, I find this almost nonsensical. Looks to me like more dollars wasted on paying consultants!
Who is going to lead the charge here Liz?  She could not even get correct letters on the Stimulus funding off to her friends in high places!  90 million for a new Civic Center - that amounts to about $900 a square foot for new building costs, it is a joke.
I think Barnaby is correct to expose the nonsense of the idea of breaking the contract.  At least he took the time to explore the issue, rather than run around claiming we can break a contract and get the taxpayers more money.
All should know Liz only REAL answer next year is she is going to raise our property taxes and water bills through the roof!