Urbana discusses area’s water supply

By Jenette Sturges

The Urbana City Council discussed the joint venture between Urbana and Champaign to assess the quality of municipal water supplies and the possibility of public ownership of local water services on Monday night.

“We would not outsource our police department because it’s a safety issue,” said Danielle Chynoweth, Ward 2. “We would not outsource our fire department. I don’t think it’s wrong to be asking these questions,” she said, motioning for investigation into the cost of public ownership.

Concerns rose after a string of problems with Illinois American Water, including boil orders and fire hydrants found to be in disrepair in 2005, when firefighters could not get hydrants open during a fire, said Paul Berg, assistant manager for the City of Champaign.

The cities are investigating a range of solutions, but Berg said that public ownership of water services would be a last resort.

“Our goal at this point is to create a partnership with the company (Illinois American Water) to maintain the quality of our water service,” Berg said.

Other concerns included stress on the Mahomet Aquifer, which supplies water to East Central Illinois, as well as the reluctance of Illinois American to supply the cities with data about the company and its services.

“They’re claiming to be a good partner, but we’re not getting any of the information that we need to assure that we’re getting good service,” said Charlie Smyth, Ward 1.

The city also met in a special session on Monday night to appoint 15 members of the community to the Public Arts Task Force. Councilwoman Danielle Chynoweth, Ward 2, will head the task force to develop a community art program.

“We had an overwhelming number of applicants, 33, which really shows the community’s enthusiasm for the project,” said Chynoweth.