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Appellate Court denies Pekin, Ill, right to buy American Water company local system

By Sharon Woods Harris

Times staff writer

PEKIN -- The Third District Appellate Court in Ottawa confirmed this weekend an Illinois Commerce Commission ruling not to allow the city of Pekin to purchase Illinois-American Water Co., Pekin System in its eminent domain case.

Now both sides must decide if the matter will go to the Illinois Supreme Court.

"The city is disappointed with the Appellate Court opinion affirming ICC actions," according to a city press release issued this morning. "The Appellate Court's deference to the ICC on these important and new issues of law does not serve the citizens of Pekin, nor any Illinois municipalities in the future.

"The ICC's legal rulings, if allowed to stand, will obstruct and impede any municipal attempt to do what the Legislature authorized them to do -- acquire their own water works by eminent domain. Both RWE/Illinois-American and the city have long recognized that these issues are properly within the province of the Illinois Supreme Court and would ultimately be decided there. The council will review the Appellate Court decision and it will decide whether to seek that review from the Illinois Supreme Court."

Illinois-American Water Co. Attorney Joe Conner said the city has not met its burden of proof.

"We just received the Order from the Illinois Court of Appeals on the appeal of the ICC decision in the Pekin matter," said Conner. "In short, the court confirmed that the ICC had applied the appropriate standard in evaluating the city's petition seeking authority to condemn.

"The Court found that the City had to prove it was in the better public interest for Pekin to acquire the system. The Court then found that the ICC's ruling that it was not in the better public interest for Pekin to acquire the system by condemnation was correct."

The Illinois Commerce Commission rejected the city's request to buy out the water company first in January 2004 and again on appeal in March 2004.