Jul 29, 2014
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New Lenox Lifts Water Ban, Will Study Minimum Usage Rate

A disruption in the water supply forced several communities to ban all outdoor watering over the weekend, but cooler temperatures and a quick fix have loosened the restrictions. Meanwhile, New Lenox plans to study water usage.

New Lenox Lifts Water Ban, Will Study Minimum Usage Rate

New Lenox dropped its outdoor sprinkling ban Monday afternoon after the heat wave and a disruption in the water supply forced the ban over the weekend. 

Effective Monday, New Lenox and Mokena returned to the Tier 1 watering restrictions, which means residents may only water their lawns between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. 

Between May 15 and Sept. 15, lawn watering and sprinkling in New Lenox is permitted on an even/odd basis, and that remains in effect. On calendar days with odd numbers, people with odd-numbered addresses may water their lawns, and people in even-numbered homes may water theirs on even-numbered calendar days.

The restrictions ensure that the village's water reserves can be replenished in the event of an emergency. 

"You've got to look at safety first," Mayor Tim Baldermann said. 

On Saturday night, New Lenox and other south suburban communities to prohibit all outdoor watering.

A  in Oak Lawn, which purchases Lake Michigan water from the City of Chicago and sells it to a dozen municipal customers including in the south suburbs, including New Lenox and Mokena. 

Baldermann said he doesn't believe any citations were written for residents who were watering their lawns over the weekend. 

"Our residents have been really great about adhering to the restrictions," Baldermann said. 

Essentially, residents missed out on one day of watering their lawns—the ban lasted Sunday and Monday, so with the even/odd setup would equate to one day each. 

Although restrictions on outdoor sprinkling are being eased tomorrow, heat and drought continue to be in the forecast for the region over the next week or so.

According to the village's website, "Consistent efforts to conserve water whenever and wherever possible will continue to be essential in helping avoid more serious restrictions throughout the remainder of the summer months."

New Lenox Studying Water Fees

Upon hearing they couldn't water their lawns, some readers reacted in the comments, saying they were upset they would still pay the minimum monthly charge of 6,000 gallons in New Lenox, even if they rarely meet that mark. 

At its last meeting in June, the Village Board approved an agreement with Naperville-based Sikich LLP to study the water rates and usage in New Lenox. 

Village Administrator Kurt Carroll said the models presented will show the effect of doing away with the minimum, and it will be up to the Village Board to choose the best option. 

"We need to make sure our expenditures are covered by our revenue," he said. "There's a number of ways to address that."

Carroll said the village is looking for a model that, even if it doesn't remove the minimum charge, explains what the charge pays for and is "ultimately something that doesn't raise the ire of the public." 

Trustee Dave Smith has long been a proponent of removing the minimum charge. 

"If you conserve, you save water, you should be able to benefit," Smith said at the meeting.

Mayor Tim Baldermann said he only exceeds 6,000 gallons about three months out of the year. But he noted that there's a reason the minimum fee was originally instituted, and that was the cost of infrastructure improvements. 

And infrastructure costs are something the village must still consider. New Lenox is already anticipating an increase to residents' water bills because of .

The municipalities that purchase water from Oak Lawn are negotiating a fair rate that each will pay for $100 million of improvements to Oak Lawn's delivery system. 

Earlier this year, , or $39.72 for the 6,000-gallong monthly minimum. That came in response to suburban communities being forced to foot nearly half the cost of Chicago's infrastructure improvements.

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