Bolingbrook water tower

Bolingbrook and four other towns are in the midst of a legal battle to seize control of a water pipeline from the American Lake Water Co. (Geoff Ziezulewicz, Chicago Tribune / September 10, 2013)

A move by five southwest suburban towns to take control of a supply line that provides Lake Michigan water to the area has been delayed because of a legal issue.

Attorneys for the Northern Will County Water Agency have moved to voluntarily dismiss the group's case to seize the privately owned pipeline.

The move is the latest development in the lengthy, costly quest by Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Homer Glen, Lemont and Woodridge to control the line in Bedford Park that provides the lake water.

The mayors of the five towns argue that they could better run the line than the current owners, American Lake Water Co., and provide consumers with lower water bills.

Led by Bolingbrook, which is footing roughly 80 percent of the legal bills, the towns discussed the takeover for years before the agency officially formed in 2012. The initial eminent domain action was filed in January 2013.

The latest motion to voluntary dismiss the eminent domain action, filed on Feb. 27, was due to one member town, Woodridge, failing to enact the proper ordinance, according to agency and village officials.

The agency plans to file an amended complaint in the case and renew the action by the end of March, restarting the eminent domain case, according to an agency statement.

Jim Boan, an agency attorney, said the case will proceed from where it left off before the motion to voluntarily dismiss the case was filed by agency attorneys.

That means that all the work and money that has gone into the case since it was first filed more than a year ago will not be lost, he said.

Woodridge village administrator Kathleen Rush said Monday that Woodridge's failure to adopt the required ordinance was a "technical" matter and that the required ordinance would be on the Village Board meeting agenda for Thursday.

Woodridge thought it had previously taken the required steps back in August 2010, Rush said.

"The agency said they'd like us to do it again," she said. "We are going to act on it."

The agency's statement says that addressing this issue now will prevent it from being appealed and further delaying the case's day in court.

The water agency's members have spent roughly $1 million to wrest control of the Bedford Park water pipeline from its private owners.

All told, water agency documents show the towns are ready to pay up to $50 million for the pipeline.

"The Agency is committed to accomplishing the acquisition in the most timely, fair and efficient manner possible," the agency statement reads. "The Agency remains confident that it will ultimately prevail."

Eminent domain cases, where a public body takes control of private assets, are often long and pricey processes.

Agency attorneys said last year that the case would not get to a judge until late this year or early 2015.

Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar and the other town leaders have decried the high price of private water in their towns, and say that taking over the Bedford Park line will lower residents' bills.

The water agency's statement this week chides American Lake Water Company, which owns and operates the Bedford Park line, for creating "confusion regarding costs and charges."