It’s been almost a week since heavy rains backed up the sewer system into the Oak Park Township offices at 105 S. Oak Park Ave., causing thousands of dollars in damage.
The offices have been largely closed since Thursday, May 3, when workers arrived at the building to find soggy floors and damaged files and equipment.
Township Manager Gavin Morgan said, during a tour of the facility, that clogged sewer lines are likely the culprit, but it still has not been determined whether the clog was from the township’s side of the line or the village’s.
If the village line was clogged, then it is the village’s responsibility to fix the line and vice versa if the clog was from the township side.
Plumbers have been called out to determine the origin of the clogged line, but a determination had not been made as of press deadline.
Meanwhile, township workers are largely working out of makeshift offices across the street at the Oak Park Township Senior Service building.
Township Supervisor Clarmarie Keenan said the backed-up sewer caused substantial damage to the two bathrooms in the facility, sending water throughout the hallway and offices in most of the building.
Last Friday, May 4, the carpets through most of the building had been pulled up and large fans were placed throughout the facility to dry the area.
Morgan said it’s the first time the township has had a major flooding incident. “We’ve had issues in our basement,” he said. “The last time we had issues in our basement was six or seven years ago. This is the first time we’ve ever had anything like this.”
The only files destroyed in the flood were in the basement and already slated to be destroyed, he said. “They had all been pulled out and put on a cart, and the cart was the only thing that really got damaged down there.”
Most of the water that flowed through the building was rain water, Morgan said.
Keenan was among the first township employees to happen upon the flooding on Thursday morning.
“I was greeted in the parking lot at a quarter till 8 with an employee saying, ‘It’s a mess inside; it’s all flooded,'” she recalled. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was soggy, but it clearly had had enough time to seep into offices right down at the end and seep into [Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar’s] office.”
Morgan noted that the flooding is covered by the township’s insurance.
“We’ve got an entire kitchen we need to redo; we’ve got two bathrooms we need to redo,” Keenan said, adding that the township also must make sure mold has not taken hold in the building.
Keenan said some workers are doing their jobs remotely, but she added that officials need to get back to their desks where they can work with secure internet connections. She acknowledged the scrutiny the township has come under recently from some in the community who believe the governmental entity should be merged with the village as a cost-saving measure.
“The kinds of services we provide, it’s critical that we have space,” she said. “There’s privacy issues that require us to have some infrastructure mechanism … that’s a little more secure than somebody hitting send from a [public] wifi connection.”