A reduction in basement flooding may be in sight for the north end of River Forest in the form of new sewers. An increase in water/sewer fees will help pay for it.

Trustees on Monday reached consensus on both and, after nearly two hours of discussion on the project as well as public comment, will vote formally next month on what is called the North Side Sewer Project, plus the method for covering the cost of the debt.

The effort, which has been on the village’s radar screen since the 1970s, could well be the largest project of its kind River Forest has ever undertaken.

The measure also was the first public test of the leadership of Village President Catherine Adduci, who was pleased that trustees came together and listened to the needs of residents.

“It is important to move forward; we need to act as one village. We’ve got to do this right,” she said.

The project would consist of installing a new storm sewer mainline on Greenfield Street to help alleviate basement flooding. A new sanitary sewer also would be added. The estimated cost is $13 million.

Phase 2, which would consist of installing storm sewer laterals north of Greenfield, may not be done. Although some residents lobbied for it, Palm said they would do Phase 1 and see if that would help everyone else.

Another part of the project being contemplated is undertaking similar work on Monroe and Jackson streets between Division and North avenues. That cost would run about $1 million.

Engineers, though, would design the entire project at once, Palm said.

There was no question that the project was a priority for trustees as a way of maintaining high quality of life and high property values, as Village Administrator Eric Palm noted in his presentation to the board.

The village would cover the cost of the project with a loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. River Forest also would try to secure grants from other agencies, but those prospects are slim, as such funding is scarce.
The bigger issue is how to pay off the debt. One option would have been a property tax increase. A rate increase would have to be approved by voters, however, and the earliest date for a ballot initiative would be in mid-March.
Trustee Tom Cargie feared there were more hurdles in seeking a property tax increase.

“There would not be enough time to educate the community about it. Interest rates are going up. Delay and uncertainty become my concern. We cannot wait until 2014,” said Cargie. He said nonprofits also need to contribute.
“In the end, a water/sewer rate increase would be the fairest, most sensible way to pay for it,” Adduci said.

It was the method favored by the 200 residents who responded to a village survey. Just over half said they’d rather see a rate hike. About 17.4 percent would want to see a property tax rate hike, which could only be accomplished by passage of a referendum. Another 30.3 percent would want to see it covered both by a property tax increase and a hike in water/sewer fees.

The idea of classifying stormwater as a utility was not contemplated, Palm said, because there was no case law on that involving a non-home-rule community and because it would take a lot of time to evaluate all the properties. The fee would be based on how much concrete, asphalt and sidewalk is on a particular parcel of property.

Bids aren’t expected to go out for the project until November or December 2014, according to a timetable offered by the village. Construction could begin during the spring of 2015; completion is anticipated during the summer of 2016.

Join the discussion on social media!