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State Senator Pushes Water Quality Bill
By Kara Spak Daily Herald Staff Writer

If you doubt state Sen. Pam Althoff's commitment to water quality, turn on your radio instead of your faucet.

In recent weeks a radio ad, sponsored by the Underground Contractor's Association and Excavators Inc., features the Republican senator from Crystal Lake urging constituents to press the federal House of Representatives bill 1560, dubbed the water quality financing act of 2003.

If that bill became law, communities throughout the country would be eligible for matching federal grants for the expensive but often necessary replacement of aging water mains and wastewater pipes.

Though it's unusual for a state legislator to record such a commercial, Althoff said she is just that passionate about finding money to help fund necessary water system infrastructure improvements in towns like Hebron, Johnsburg, Richmond and McHenry. Althoff served as mayor of McHenry before being appointed to fill the senate seat vacated by Dick Klemm, who stepped down after being diagnosed with cancer.

"People assume when they turn on their faucets that water is going to come out," she said. "Our water systems are extremely vulnerable. What this does for me is it gives me an entrance and opportunity to explain the issue."

Althoff said she knew individuals from both trade groups from her time as McHenry's mayor and from her work with the Fox River Waterway Agency, the group that deals with Fox River issues north of the Algonquin dam and south of the Chain O' Lakes. The trade groups asked her to create the ads.

Althoff Industries, the Crystal Lake family business that her late husband served as vice president of, would not benefit from the House bill because the company deals with pipes in buildings, not infrastructure, she said.

"Does Althoff Industry know some of these people? Absolutely," she said. "Does it benefit? No."

Who it will benefit, she said, are all McHenry residents living in areas with crumbling pipelines. She estimated that replacing mains in just five McHenry County towns could cost more than $39 million, with small communities like Johnsburg and Hebron paying $12śmillion and $9 million, respectively.

"I don't think it's uncommon," Althoff said of her work with the federal bill. "In the five months I've been down in Springfield, most legislators choose to get involved in issues on a federal level."

Jack Franks, a popular Woodstock Democrat representing the 63rd district in the Illinois House, said he had not heard of a sitting legislator making such an ad before. But as long as Althoff declares it as a campaign contribution, he said it might be an effective way to fight the massive advertising budget of special interest groups.

"Oftentimes these industry groups spend a lot pushing products," Franks said. "When they were fighting the prescription drug bill, they spent so much money against us. If I had the opportunity to counter I'd take the opportunity."

Bill: Towns would get matching grants for fixes

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