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Legal technicality clogs  Kendall loan for sewer system

Updated: December 10, 2012 2:26PM

YORKVILLE – The will might be there, but the legal ability for Kendall County to loan the village of Lisbon money is not.

State’s Attorney Eric Weis this week told County Board members the county has no legal authority to loan money to Lisbon, a small village in the southern part of the county.

Officials from the town of about 300 people had asked to borrow up to $420,000 from the county to help build a sewage treatment plant.

The plant is necessary for about half the homes in town, where sewage flows into the town’s storm sewers. Residents in the other half of town have septic tanks and private wells.

The Environmental Protection Agency has filed a complaint against Lisbon for its combined sewers, forcing the village to build a sewage treatment plant. The plant must have enough capacity to bring the homeowners on septic systems into the plant eventually.

Lisbon is paying for at least half the cost of the project, which could reach $1 million, and is hoping to get grant money from the EPA. But officials want to get enough of the project going to show good faith to the EPA.

In October, the County Board agreed to have the state’s attorney’s office develop an intergovernmental agreement between the county and Lisbon for the loan. But in the course of looking into that, Weis discovered the county has no authority to make such a loan.

“They cannot loan money to another governmental entity,” Weis said.

Some board members asked why the county was able to loan Yorkville $500,000 for the River Road Bridge project. The county made the loan for six years, interest free.

Weis said that was done because the county has specific authority, granted under the state’s highway code, to do joint road projects with other governmental entities.

To get similar authority to do a sewage treatment plant project, the county would have to pass a similar sewer code. It would, in effect, put the county in the sewage treatment business.

“It opens up a whole bunch of other things the county would have to do,” Weis said.

Board members said they will work on ideas in which they might be able to help Lisbon. They said they would talk to area state legislators about the possibility of changing state law to allow such a loan.

“But that takes time,” Weis said. “It’s not a quick solution.”

“The sad thing is, everyone knows there’s a need down there, and they want to help,” he said.

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