The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) unanimously voted to give a 39-year lease controlling the Wilmette Harbor to the Wilmette Harbor Association (WHA). The vote occurred at the Board's meeting on Thursday.
Although the vote to grant the lease to the WHA was unanimous, at least one member of the board made it known that they would have liked to have seen a shorter five-year lease granted instead.
"I don't think it benefits us to enter into a long lease," Commissioner Mariyana Spyropoulos said during the vote. "However, I do see the importance two continue opening the Harbor...although I would prefer five years."
The WHA said in a statement handed out at the meeting that there were numerous benefits to approving the leasing agreement.
"By approving a leasing agreement, the MWRD would: 1) save Cook County taxpayers more than $500,000 in maintenance costs; 2) ensure the quality of Lake Michigan water; and 3) protect boaters and swimmers by ensuring the U.S. Coast Guard station can continue to operate effectively there," the statement read.
Fritz Duda, President and Director of the Wilmette Harbor Management Inc. — a group that put in a bid for the lease but was ruled "fiscally non-responsive" by the board — spoke out at the meeting.
"My primary message is this," he siad. "There are only two appropriate actions. First, to award the lease to the high bidder, the Wilmette Harbor Management Inc., and second, to restart the bid process."
Bryan Abbott, a member-elect of the Wilmette Park District Board of Commissioners, attended the meeting to gather information and learn more about the Harbor debate. He said that he looks forward to further discussing the possibilities to make the most of the Harbor.
"We all look at the lake differently," he said. "And that's just the lake. The Harbor, even more so. That's why there's so many emotions tied up in this."
Sue Watson, who is on the Board of the Sheridan Shores, said that she agreed with the decision to grant the lease to the WHA.
"I think that the Water Reclamation District did the right thing by awarding the lease to the current management team," she said.