Paying for River Forest's new sewers

Opinion: Editorials

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River Forest has a flooding problem. And it is not just the Des Plaines River.

Basements in the village, particularly on the north side of town, flood regularly during heavy storms; they have for years. They will continue to flood because the century-old storm sewer system just doesn't have the necessary capacity.

Village officials, to their credit, have decided that a major fix is essential. They've done their engineering homework and costed out a giant storm sewer line along Greenfield. With a price tag of at least $13 million, village leaders are now doing the financial homework of sorting out how to pay for the upgrade. We like the broad range of options and combinations of options the staff and board are considering. A decision on how to fund the work is expected this summer.

Here's our thought: Cancel the property tax hike option simply because it would force a referendum. This is not a choice to be made by referendum. It is a choice to be made by elected leaders. That's why we elect them.

Fixing an infrastructure issue so grievous as this flooding isn't optional. It can't depend on whether voters "are in the mood" for a hike in their taxes. We fix infrastructure because that is what communities do; it's why we live in community.

We're interested in the concept of a storm water utility fee. This is a fairly new idea but one which our reporter Deb Kadin says is gathering steam across Chicagoland and the nation as communities seek ways to fund these monster second-century projects.

The storm water utility fee would apply to any entity in town that gets a water bill. So everyone is paying a fair share. And it could have a decidedly green orientation with the fee based on the size of the property and the percentage of the property that is permeable. The bigger the rooftop footprint, the wider the driveway, the less permeable surface to absorb rain water, the more you pay. In some towns, if a homeowner or business takes steps to get greener — rain barrels, permeable paver driveway, disconnected downspouts, their fee could drop.

The fee could also be a steady and semi-permanent revenue stream to cover not only the Greenfield fee but future essential costs tied to modernizing local storm sewers.

Reader Comments

5 Comments - Add Your Comment

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RF Achievement  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 6:46 PM

@Dan - exactly with your point. Big government and screw the Taxpayer. I mean, everything should be on the table - but to say, this is not something the voters should have a say in. Excuse me - who says this papers editorial team has better say than residents?

Dan in RF  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 9:52 AM

Read carefully what this editorial suggests. Bypass the voters, create a new revenue stream, throw in a green element to address the fairness issue and eye the new funds as a revenue stream available for other uses. Sounds like a Springfield Special to me and all the more reason to use the referendum process to ensure transparency.

Dan in RF  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 9:28 AM

Since infrastructure is a basic village responsibility, makes sense to explain to the voters why we need a tax hike to pay for it and have it approved by referendum. That is what our leaders were elected to do. Our mood is not the issue; the issue is why we need a special fee at all. The days of keeping the status quo on other spending and asking for more is over.

Greg from RF  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 6:39 AM

OMG protect us from the voters! I am getting so tired of that refrain from this paper and others who believe that voters are just knee-jerk idiots. Voters understand the difference between a need and a want but mostly they hear wants from G. I am sure a good case will be made for this and the voters will support it. Its up to leadership to make that case, spend wisely, cut elsewhere if necessary and manage well. To earn trust you must give trust. I say bring on a referendum.

RF Achievement  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 6:28 AM

Wow - Dan Healy feels he needs to weigh in on River Forest Sewers. RF can handle the issue just fine. Let the residents and taxpayers decide - you do not need to "pump" it up with something you know little to nothing about. Why do you decide to weigh in and "try" to move public opinion - between two public meetings? But wait - this is likely your way to comment on "going green" How novel. The Residents of RF can handle this Dan - they do not need your guidance.

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