River Forest is moving forward on proposed North Avenue streetscape improvements and the installation of an advanced water metering infrastructure system following action at the Oct. 26 virtual village board meeting, but progress on a proposed storm water master plan has been delayed.

Of the three projects, only the proposed storm water master plan sparked discussion.

In August, elected officials authorized staff members to create a request for proposals for qualified storm water engineering firms to provide submittals for the creation of a master plan. 

Village Administrator Eric Palm explained that the purpose of the plan would be to identify projects, programs and initiatives that will reduce flooding conditions within the village by the most cost-effective means and at the appropriate level of protection. 

By addressing and prioritizing all potential projects and programs related to storm water through a master plan, the village would be able to pursue items in a more comprehensive manner, he said.

Resident Margie Cekander started the discussion during the citizen comments portion at the beginning of the meeting with a series of suggestions, including obtaining citizen input and addressing private property storm water detention and flooding along the Des Plaines River.

Obtaining resident input was supported by village President Cathy Adduci and trustees Erika Bachner, Katie Brennan, Patty Henek and Respicio Vazquez.

Brennan proposed involving the members of the Sustainability Commission and Vazquez suggested posting the request for proposals on the village website with an invitation to residents to comment.

Adduci recommended holding a virtual town hall meeting, saying a “meeting via Zoom can’t hurt.”

Bachner concurred, noting flooding is a big issue in River Forest.

Trustee Bob O’Connell was more cautious, saying he wanted officials to focus on the big picture and avoid minutiae.

Bachner and Brennan supported involving Maywood officials, since that village is on the other side of the Des Plaines River but Trustee Tom Cargie opposed that, saying responsibility for the impact of river flooding lies with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

“River Forest residents shouldn’t have to pay for a study of Maywood,” he said.

Village staff were asked bring the request for proposals back to the village board after obtaining resident input.

Streetscape, water meter initiatives move ahead 

The North Avenue streetscape project would be partially funded by an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP) grant, an application for which would be submitted jointly by River Forest and Elmwood Park.

River Forest officials took their first step Oct. 26 by approving a resolution of support for submitting the grant application.

The project, which would be similar to the partnership with Forest Park for streetscaping on Madison Street, would include new street lighting, sidewalk replacement, brick pavers, benches and median planter boxes on North Avenue between Harlem and Lathrop avenues.

The estimated total cost is $3,288,000. The maximum ITEP grant award is $2 million. That would leave the local share at $1,288,000 or $644,000 for each village.

Palm recommended charging the project to the North Avenue Tax Increment Financing District fund. The village’s general operating fund or capital improvements fund would likely loan the money to the TIF fund, since that recently created TIF will not have enough money available.

Once the TIF district collects enough incremental revenue, it would repay the loan to the village fund that loaned the money.

Palm said another option would be to pay for the project using reserves from the motor fuel tax fund.

The advanced water metering project, which would allow for automatic water meter reading and leak detection, was originally discussed at the Oct. 12 village board meeting, but questions about the number of antennas required and their placement delayed progress.

After Public Works Director John Anderson estimated at the Oct. 26 meeting that one or two antennas would be required and identified the water tower, the pumping station and village hall as potential locations, consensus to move forward with the project was reached.

The next step will be to finalize a request for proposals for the project, which carries an estimated cost of $1.08 million. The project would entail upgrading meters at all water customer locations throughout the village with state-of-art equipment that will allow the village to obtain meter readings without requiring a public works employee to perform a “drive by” read, which is the current practice.

Anderson explained on Oct. 12 that the project would deliver better customer service by providing accurate bills based on actual consumption that can be seen in real time by providing meter readings on a daily basis. It can also help identify any irregularities in water usage such as leaks being experienced by residents, he added.

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