As nine Lake County communities trudge forward in their hopes of bringing Lake Michigan water to residents, Antioch Village Board members say they are skeptical of the plans to finance the project.
The Northern Lake County Lake Michigan Water Planning Group is waiting to hear whether its proposal to build a $250 million pipeline connecting the nine communities to the lake is accepted.
The decision is expected by late July, but the group is in the process of deciding how the project will be funded if it is given the green light.
Two viable options are on the table. One is through general obligation bonds, which would require a majority referendum vote. The other is through a special services area bond, which would not require a referendum vote to pass, but could be denied by obtaining signatures of the majority of residents in the area petitioning against it.
Antioch officials stressed the village board would not approve the project unless the decision is made by taxpayers through a referendum.
"I would not support any game being played that is not in the hands of the voters," Trustee Dennis Crosby said.
Trustee Ted Poulos agreed and said the board will not go back on a promise it made earlier this year to decide the project with a referendum.
Board members are skeptical that voters would pass a referendum in an election year, when people are already hurting financially.
Crosby suggested delaying a vote until 2012.
"This is a horrible time to do this," he said. "It's an election year. There's no way it's going to pass in 10 months."
Village Administrator Jim Keim estimated residents would see a $400 increase per year for an average user if the project is approved. About $200 would come through new taxes and the other $200 through increased water bills.
"This is going to be an epic selling job," Crosby said. "These people are tone-deaf if they think they are going to get this thing sold."
If the group decides on a referendum vote, the last date to file would be Jan. 31, 2011, with the vote occurring on April 11.
Some 97 percent of the maximum amount of water allowed to be pumped from the lake each day is already accounted for, and Keim said this may be the last chance to connect to the lake.
"Once it is gone, it may be very difficult for us down the road to get water," he said.
Each town in the group is now being asked to contribute $50,000 to continue funding engineering, public education, legal assistance and project management so the group can continue to function before the decision is made.
Trustee Scott Pierce said he opposed continuing the project because he thought it was a way for Lake County to control village zoning in the future.
The village board will make a decision on the future of the project within the month.