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Lake Michigan water has arrived for Prospect Heights homeowners
By Steve Zalusky | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/13/2009 10:16 PM

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Dozens of Prospect Heights residents gathered over the weekend in Claire Lane Park to celebrate the arrival of Lake Michigan water.

The Lake Claire Water Association held a block party Saturday afternoon to commemorate the successful completion of a water main serving 162 properties. All but 40 properties have hooked up, said Robert Korvas, president of the association.

Korvas said the water tastes "wonderful."

"People are so ecstatic they can't believe it," he said.

Korvas said members of one family at the party were reminiscing about how Lake Michigan water was promised to them the year after their house was built 21 years ago.

Korvas is relieved that well water is a memory, as is the rust in the pipes, the corrosion and the extra cost of maintaining a well and softener systems. He said one family had to drill about 15 wells, and they still couldn't get clean water.

"And by clean, I mean they couldn't get it to where you could see through it. That's how bad it was," Korvas said.

For proponents like Korvas, it was the culmination of a three-year battle. Opposition even came from the area's own alderman, Gerald Anderson, who believes it cost will be far more than estimated.

One of the areas of contention was the cost per home for the system. Funding for the $2.8-million pipeline is provided by a Special Service Area, SSA 6, with the homeowners, who live in an area around and including Wheeling Road and Camp McDonald Road, being charged on their tax bills to pay off the bonds. The process, which includes approval for the SSA by the city council and a public hearing, begin around Christmas in 2005.

"It was a learning process," Korvas said. "No one had done this before."

Among the obstacles was litigation from opposing homeowners on Wheeling Road.

Korvas said the project's budget was for approximately $14,000 per household on average - over a 20-year period - to install the water main and add new streets and landscape restoration.

"The money is basically a special assessment on our property tax bill over 20 years," Korvas said. "The average home came out to around $1,300 a year in property taxes, which is tax deductible."

But Anderson, who said he is going to pass out fliers in his ward about the system, says the total is more like $35,000 per household, including the cost for hookup and charges for the water itself.

"And, of course, you get the lovely deal of also having (Prospect Heights) tax the water," Anderson said. "It's not a perfect deal by any means."

Anderson said the system itself is inferior, warning that the entire system would have to be shut down if there is a malfunction.