Local residents wondering if Harvey's water finance woes will trickle down to Homewood probably have nothing to fear, according to village officials.
A Cook County judge ruled Friday, Aug. 29, that the Village of Harvey must abide by state law and spend revenue generated by water distribution only on appropriate water system expenses, according to a Chicago Tribune report.
Harvey gets Lake Michigan water from Chicago and is $20 million behind on its payments, according to the Tribune. Chicago had asked the court to seize control of Harvey's water fund, accusing the city of diverting water revenues to other uses.
Homewood is one of five south suburbs that buys water from Harvey, and Homewood, in turn, sells water to Flossmoor.
Village Manager Jim Marino said Homewood has a contract with Harvey that runs to 2022. The contract allows Harvey to increase the rate 3 percent or the consumer price index, whichever is less.
Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld said the court's decision about Harvey's past-due bills should not have any effect on rates in Homewood.
Water rates have been increasing and will continue, he said, but not because of Harvey's financial struggles. Chicago is progressively raising rates each year, and those costs get passed on to customers down the line, he said.
Hofeld said he is more concerned about the effect Harvey's financial difficulties could have on the integrity of its system.
“Water is more precious than oil,” he said. “My main concern is that their distribution system is maintained, and they can supply us with water.”
There is a provision in the village's contract with Harvey to conduct an inspection of the distribution system, Hofeld said. That was done about 14 or 15 years ago, he said, and the village could hire an engineer to take another look soon.
Hofeld said Homewood has gotten its water from Harvey for more than 30 years and has been generally satisfied with the service. Prior to contracting for lake water from Harvey, Homewood's water came from local deep wells.
If the village ever became dissatisfied with its arrangement with Harvey, there are other options — Hammond, Indiana, also sells lake water, for instance — but any shift to a new service would involve considerable capital expenditures to refit the distribution system, Hofeld said.
Contact Eric Crump at [email protected]