Oak Park residents not eligible for flood assistance

County says damage last month 'insufficient' for disaster declaration


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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Click here to read the letter from the county.

The Village of Oak Park announced last week that residents who experienced flooding in their homes in July will not be eligible for federal aid.

That's because the level of damage caused during a heavy rainstorm, July 23, was "insufficient" to declare the village a disaster area, according to a letter sent to the village from the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The county made the determination after examining flood reports from throughout the area. Village Manager Tom Barwin said the news is disappointing, though not a huge surprise when July's storm is compared to the much heavier rains in July 2010, which did result in assistance to private homeowners.

Last year's storm caused 10 times as much damage to public property and twice as much damage to individual homes, Barwin said.

"I kind of figured this is how it would go, while hoping and advocating that we'd get some assistance," he said.

The state could have gone ahead and declared a disaster, despite the county's decision, but chose not to, according to Rob Cole, assistant village manager. Thus, there is no alternate recourse for Oak Park or other communities to obtain federal relief.

Oak Park, however, is considering starting a program where it would assist residents in installing flood-prevention devices, such as overhead sewers or backflow prevention devices. Public Works Director John Wielebnicki is gathering info on similar programs in surrounding communities and plans to propose options during upcoming budget talks in the coming months.

Village staff is expected to present a report on the flooding to the village board in September, with an initial discussion likely starting at the Sept. 6 board meeting.

Some 321 residents in Oak Park filled out forms, outlining the amount of damage that flooding caused to their homes July 23. Village Trustee Adam Salzman — who lives in northeast Oak Park, and experienced sewage backing up in his basement in July — thinks flooding like the past two Julys is going to be a frequent occurrence because of climate change. He believes Oak Park should be better prepared next time around.

"You can't treat it like it's a deviation from the norm," he said. "We have a responsibility within village boundaries — notwithstanding what's going on with the county or the federal government — to make sure that our sewer infrastructure is equipped to handle that kind of extreme weather because it's just a fact of life in the 21st century."


Cook County Letter

Reader Comments

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Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 8:04 AM

@ Anne - there is no 'date certain' for the meeting in September. However, on Tuesday September 6th the Village Manager will be providing an update on the status of the staff review and next steps.


Posted: August 27th, 2011 6:06 PM

Thanks, Ray. That would be helpful.

OP Rez  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 1:05 PM

Angry Black Man, Do you think white people are all rich? Do you think white people don't have to get up in the morning for work? Do you think Black people don't party at night? Using this flood to express your misguided rage is pathetic, and does a disservice to the fight against real racal inequalities!

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 26th, 2011 8:06 AM

I've just asked staff if we have a 'date certain' for the flood mitigation meeting and will advise shortly.


Posted: August 26th, 2011 4:23 AM

I am very interested to find out when in September this presentation about the villages remedies and suggestions will take place. Our home flooded (Drain back up) for the first time EVER on the 23rd and I would like to hear what options are available to prevent a repairs and it would be more useful if the information was offered sooner rather than after repair work is completed. Would this be at the regular village board meeting?

Angry Black Man  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 8:17 PM

Flood aid is a moral hazard. Do you want to pay for your rich white neighbor to renovate their basement again to host late night drinking parties while you are trying to sleep because you have to work early in the morning?

T.J. from OP  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 7:10 PM

The forms residents completed helped the village secure money for themselves. The village will secure money to help local gov't offset the money they spent on clean up costs. The form was all about getting money for the village not residents. Thanks for playing.

JEFF SCHROEDER from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 5:10 PM

As much as some of our neighbors may be disappointed, this does mark progress on the part of the County. At lease someone in government is thinking twice before shelling out money that it does not have, just to make the voters love them!

Thank You from Oak Park  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 4:22 PM

Mr. Masters writes very well. It was very easy to understand and is very understandable why Oak Park isn't getting any money. That's very nice that the letter has been put out to the public. That's good open government.

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