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Local News

Cost estimates in Joliet water study under fire

Public Utilities Director Allison Swisher speaks to a joint meeting of the Joliet City Council and Environmental Commission on Nov. 13 while presenting an 18-month study of alternate water sources for Joliet.
Public Utilities Director Allison Swisher speaks to a joint meeting of the Joliet City Council and Environmental Commission on Nov. 13 while presenting an 18-month study of alternate water sources for Joliet.

Critics, including a potential supplier, are challenging numbers used in a study designed to guide Joliet on its way to find a new water source in the coming decades.

DuPage Water Commission officials have asked that cost estimates pertaining to its agency be taken
off the city website, saying they are “overexaggerated” by at least $100 million.

Two members of the Environmental Commission, which is expected to recommend a future water source at a meeting next week, told the City Council on Tuesday that they don’t trust the numbers in the study.

“To expect us to make a decision that’s valid next week seems ludicrous,” said Commissioner Wayne Horne, who said he questions about half the cost estimates supplied in the study that first was presented three weeks ago.

“I don’t trust any damn numbers on that spreadsheet,” said Commissioner John Hertko, referring to a list of cost estimates for options connecting Joliet to water from Lake Michigan, the Illinois River and the Kankakee River.

The list includes the DuPage Water Commission, which provides Lake Michigan water to municipalities in DuPage County and had expressed interest in supplying water to Joliet.

However, the DuPage Water Commission did not respond to a Request for Information seeking numbers used in the Joliet study and also has objected to cost estimates for its agency being included.

“The DWC believes that these estimated costs are totally and completely inaccurate,” commission Chairman James Zay wrote in a letter to Joliet officials. “We believe in some areas the estimates are overexaggerated by hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Joliet Public Utilities Director Allison Swisher defended the study estimates, saying they largely are based on construction cost estimates that do not depend information from the DuPage Water Commission.

“We are confident that the evaluation provided is accurate,” Swisher said.

Swisher said she and consultants working on the water study, however, want to meet with DuPage Water Commission representatives to discuss the numbers.

“We would like to understand why they came to the conclusion that they did,” she said.

The controversy about the study comes as the city prepares to present the findings at a public forum that will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Cantigny Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 367 at 826 Horseshoe Drive, Joliet.

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