The Department of Public Works traces it roots back to May 6 of 1902 when the position of City Engineer was created by the City Council. Creating the position of Superintendent of Streets quickly followed that. In June of 1902 the Street Superintendent was authorized to “put prisoners to work” in maintaining the City’s streets. On June 27th of 1902 it was authorized that if such prisoners attempted to flee, a ball and chain could be attached to prevent such flight.
On November 1902 the City Council consolidated numerous existing positions into the Department of Public Works. This Department comprised 11 authorized positions. (Today the department has only 24.)
The first water well was established on September 1, 1900 at the corner of 28th Street and Ebenezer, adjacent to the Zion Cookie Factory. A second well was established in Shiloh Park in 1902. A third well was established in Shiloh Park, west or the railroad tracks in approximately 1904. The First water main installed in the City was a 6″ cast iron pipe installed between Ebenezer and Elizabeth Avenues, and between 29th and 27th Streets. This main installation was approved in August of 1903. Portions may still be in use today.
On March 22nd of 1907 an Ordinance #119 required all able-bodied men between 21 and 50 years of age to “labor in streets and alleys for 2 days per year”.
Such labor would be compensated at the rate of 75 cents per day. Failure to perform such work would result in a fine of not less that $5.00 nor more than $10.00.
In 1925 a bond issue was based authorizing $30,000 to be used for the construction of a well, pump, building, and a 100,000-gallon/100 foot tall storage tank. In 1926 and 1927 over 9 1/2 miles of water main were installed, with the addition of 9 1/2 miles in 1928 and 2 miles in 1929 for a total of 21 miles of water main, on which 166 fire hydrants were attached. Due to the high level of minerals in this water, problems soon developed not only with taste and appearance issues, but with plugged boiler and mechanical lines.
1956 saw the City implement water use restrictions due to the quality and quantity of the water in the system. All water-cooled air conditioning, car washing and lawn sprinkling were prohibited.
In 1957 the Lake County Public Water District was created by the State of Illinois, and the City of Zion began purchasing water from this organization.
Growth within the City can be tracked with some accuracy from the size of the water system. In 1927 there were 172 water meters in service. By 1936 this had risen to 858, 1946 saw 1217 meters, and by 1959 there were 2050 meters in use within the City. Today, there are over 6,000 water accounts operating on our water system.