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Village could secure land deal for wastewater plant site near Silver Cross Hospital

The Village of New Lenox is eyeing some property near Silver Cross Hospital to serve as the site of its proposed regional wastewater treatment plant.

At a March 5 special meeting, New Lenox officials, joined by representatives from Strand Associates, were tasked with presenting the findings of their search and review of land.

The proposed wastewater treatment plant site has been a source of contention at public meetings in recent weeks, in part, because the Village is eyeing an approximate 80-acre property off of Delaney Road. Plans for the project, which consisted of expanding the Jackson Branch plant, had been on the books for more than 20 years.

The Village presented information on a third viable option, in addition to the two previously identified sites.

New developments in the search for land show that the Village has come to an agreement in principle with an owner to obtain property near Silver Cross Hospital, which is located in proximity to New Lenox’s wastewater treatment plant No. 3.

Many of those on hand for the special meeting applauded this option, in part, because the project is anticipated to be constructed farthest from the nearest home.

“It has become now a viable option,” Mayor Tim Baldermann said.

The price tag to construct a regional wastewater treatment plant, along with other associated costs for labor and conveyance, will vary, given the specifics regarding the site.

The Village presented information of an expansion of the Jackson Branch plant’s footprint amounting to about $121 million. Another site off of Delaney Road has the project totaling to roughly $134 million. A third location near Silver Cross Hospital adds a price tag between $4 and 5 million more than the latter.

Baldermann said the Village had found out within hours of its special meeting that a due diligence agreement could be struck for the latter at a cost of approximately $1.5-1.75 million.

New Lenox will require approximately 20 to 30 acres to expand wastewater treatment plant No. 3.

If the Village proceeds with the land sale, the impact will be reflected in changes to New Lenox’s home-rule sales tax and water and sewer fees.

Daniel “D.J.” Moran, a doctor for Silver Cross Hospital, was one of dozens on hand that took time to make a public comment.

“I am concerned for the citizens of New Lenox,” he said. “We know about respiratory infections, [and] we know about airborne pathogens, so the fact that you’re thinking about other sites where it might not have such a negative impact on the residents, I really respect you for doing that.”

Not everyone, however, was on board with the Village’s idea of expanding wastewater treatment plant No. 3.

Bill Walter wants the Village Board to move forward with expanding the Jackson Branch plant and said the cost of water and sewer fees is already costly enough.

Several people on hand for the special meeting wanted more specifics on how the project would impact them financially.

“Not everything is dollars and cents, and we realize that,” Baldermann said.

Baldermann acknowledged that the Village Board has a fiduciary responsibility to put taxpayer dollars to proper use, and said if the community is agreeable, officials will vote in kind.

Not everyone on hand for the special meeting was satisfied by the Village’s response to the community’s concerns. Consider Elizabeth Morris, a resident of the Water Chase subdivision, which is three-and-a-half miles from the proposed location.

“I wish we would’ve had this [special meeting] months ago, otherwise we may not be here tonight,” she said.

Baldermann tried to lessen the concern and said it’s important to note that the Village didn’t have an agreement in principle for the site near Silver Cross Hospital months ago.

Morris called into question the Village Board’s backbone to pressure the mayor may exert over how they choose to vote.

“I was hoping that [project] was not going to be influenced by the deal that you made with them,” she said, referring to Baldermann’s congressional campaign fund.

According to campaign contribution details, one of Baldermann’s donors is Hartz, the landowner off of Delaney Road in which the Village has secured a $1.9 million due diligence agreement. The Hartz family donated in 2008 during Baldermann's run for 11th Congressional District. The family has not contributed to any of his campaigns for mayor. The Village has taken action in recent weeks to complete its work with respect to surveying the property.

"They made one small, legal contribution 11 years ago for a congressional run and never for a village office, including mayor," Baldermann told The Patriot in response. "Regardless, I will always represent my constituents."

Trustee David Smith sought to dispel the idea that Baldermann could sway the way the Village Board votes.

“I’ll be voting on this,” he said. “I do not have a fundraiser. I do not raise funds. I spend my own money. I will be voting on this. … Tim is really only one vote.”

Baldermann said if the Village weren’t serious about pursuing the site near Silver Cross Hospital, they would not go to this length if that were the case.

The Village intends to seek a 60-day extension with regard to the due diligence deal with Hartz Homes, enabling the time needed to construct a similar agreement for the property near Silver Cross Hospital.

Baldermann said this contract will be presented to officials at their second regular meeting this month.

The Village Board is anticipated to continue discussions of the regional wastewater treatment plant at its March 12 regular meeting.

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