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Joliet awards contract for alternative water source study

Megann Horstead, Reporter – news@thetimesweekly.com | 7/17/2018, 7 p.m.
Allison Swisher, interim utilities director for City of Joliet, considers the work of the Joliet Environmental Commission important for advancing ...

Allison Swisher, interim utilities director for City of Joliet, considers the work of the Joliet Environmental Commission important for advancing the city’s efforts to secure an alternative water source, but there was no quorum at a recent meeting and officials moved forward without the vote of the panel because the Joliet City Council needed to award a phase one contract for the study this week.

“This is very important,” she said. “We need your feedback. This scope was always written with having a group that would be the advocate to lead the directors. We need the feedback, and we do need that to be successful.”

The Joliet City Council postponed a vote on the matter twice in recent weeks.

City staff recommended that Joliet move forward with Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, a group that specializes in the study of river water alternatives. The firm is attached to projects for the cities of Aurora and Naperville.

The contract, as awarded, will create a team headed by Crawford, Murphy & Tilly in which its subcontractors, Stantec and Engineering Enterprises, Inc., bring expertise with Lake Michigan water and groundwater supplies, respectively.

Research conducted by the Illinois State Water Survey showed that water supplies in the northeastern Illinois region could dry up in the next 15-25 years.

Discussion during the commission meeting showed that uncertainty remains over how much water the city will need and what direction officials may take to address the regional issue. Swisher said the city staff hopes to work with the commission to answer those questions, as they are central to the project.

Theresa O’Grady, project manager for Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, commented that some communities might turn to the City of Joliet to help determine what steps they intend to take.

“The city is at a critical point right now where you guys are in need of a long-term, sustainable source, or supply, that will last 100-plus years,” she said. “You guys are at ground zero. Because there’s several communities in the area, which also use the deep aquifer system, … they’re looking to you to see what Joliet does and then determine how they’re going to proceed to attain a sustainable source of water.”

Jeff Freeman, vice president of Engineering Enterprises, Inc., said all effective projects start with a strong foundation, and this one is no different.

What’s more five members of the Joliet Environmental Commission were absent for the meeting this past week, at which point city staff was seeking its recommendation. In doing so, a vote on the matter was shelved because no quorum was established.

Commission Member Maria Rafac has said it is frustrating knowing the Joliet Environmental Commission did not have enough members at the meeting necessary to vote.

Swisher said later that though the city feels it is adequate to move forward without input from several members of the Joliet Environmental Commission, staff remains committed to seeking out their views on the matter. She continued, saying that commission members in attendance for the meeting provided adequate input for the Joliet City Council to keep an item on the agenda for the consideration of a phase one contract for a water source study this week, given the project’s timetable and city staff’s request for additional commission members.

The Joliet City Council awarded a contract in the amount of $278,700 to Crawford, Murphy & Tilly at its meeting on Tuesday.

A timetable for the project is predicated on starting in August and completing phase one work by January 2019.

The city currently has several options it is weighing, as it seeks an alternative water source. Officials have said they want to narrow down the list of possibilities.

O’Grady has said it may take five years for the city to construct a water treatment plant, should the Joliet City Council agree on an alternative water source.

Commission Members Maria Rafac, Marc Kaufman and Mike Bily expressed their support during the commission meeting for awarding the phase one contract to Crawford, Murphy & Tilly.