Residents of the 1400 block of Monroe Avenue found a receptive audience when they brought their concerns regarding a sewer issue on their block to the July 12 River Forest Village Board meeting.
At issue was a village ordinance requiring property owners to repair breaks in the sewer line from the property to the junction with the main sewer line, even if it is past the curb.
Sheila and Wallace Harris of 1438 Monroe and Agnes Goldstein of 1439 Monroe, who live across the street from each other, called attention to the sink hole in the street caused by breaks in the sewer line and questioned why repair of breaks in the sewer line under the street would be the responsibility of the property owners.
Not only did village officials agree with the residents, but they also authorized repair of the breaks at village expense. The $17,035 payment was approved at the Aug. 9 village board meeting. In addition, village officials directed village staff to research the ordinance in question with the intention of amending it to avoid similar issues in the future. Lisa Scheiner, acting village administrator, said at the Aug. 9 meeting that she plans to revisit the policy at the Sept. 13 village board meeting, noting there is a “fair amount of research” involved.
Following the Aug. 9 meeting, Village President Cathy Adduci said the village board has taken similar action previously.
“It’s not unusual and we’ve done it a couple of times,” she said. “Circumstances change. In this case it made sense. We were putting residents in difficult circumstances.”
As an example, Adduci cited the village board changing an ordinance regarding the requirement for fire sprinklers in residences in 2013. She said after receiving “multiple resident complaints” the village board amended the ordinance requiring that fire sprinklers be installed throughout a residence if improvements were made to 50 percent or more of living space.
The Harrises and Goldstein were supported at the July 12 by neighbors.
Sheila Harris contended that Elmwood Park and Forest Park do not hold property owners responsible for sewer repairs past the curb and questioned why the River Forest policy was different.
Goldstein complained that she was told not only that the repairs were the responsibility of the property owner but also that the ordinance required the repairs to be completed in 72 hours. She said she encountered difficulty in obtaining estimates, with some contractors saying they were too busy and others saying it would take as long as three weeks to provide an estimate.
Wallace Harris said one of the contractors explained to him that the ground underneath the break had to be exposed to adequately diagnose the problem. The contractor noted that the break is in an area of sandy soil, which provides an additional challenge, Harris added.
Block residents also complained about flooding of their basements and the street itself during heavy rains but officials said those concerns would be addressed through the village storm water master plan that was approved earlier this year. The main goal of the plan will be to identify areas of need related to the village’s sewer system and to establish future improvement projects that will help address those needs.