Major sewer construction | File

Help appears to be on the way for River Forest property owners facing costly repairs to sewer laterals that run from their properties to the main sewer under the street.

Officials reached consensus at the Sept. 27 village board meeting to support a recommendation to create a sewer lateral repair subsidy program. A formal proposal is expected to be considered at a village board meeting in October.

Similar to the current lead service line replacement program and the sewer backflow prevention program, the sewer lateral subsidy program would offer property owners reimbursement of 50 percent of the repair cost with a maximum reimbursement of $7,500 per property owner.

The issue was raised at the July 12 village board meeting when residents of the 1400 block of Monroe Avenue brought their concerns regarding a sewer issue on their block. In addition to cost concerns, residents questioned a village ordinance requiring property owners to repair breaks in the sewer lateral from the property to the junction with the main sewer line even if it is past the curb.

Jeff Loster, village engineer, explained at the Sept. 27 meeting that an informal survey of west suburban municipalities showed that the majority of those responding have policies similar to that of River Forest. He said responses were received from 13 of the 19 municipalities contacted, with eight reporting the responsibility to maintain a sewer lateral in good working condition from the building to the sewer main falls to the property owner, as is the policy in River Forest.

During a brief discussion, officials were generally supportive of the recommendation but expressed concerns about its impact on residents.

Village President Cathy Adduci stressed the importance of educating residents on the issue and the need to help them find qualified contractors.

Trustee Bob O’Connell wanted to know what “the most equitable thing” for residents would be.

Loster said the village has approximately 3,000 sewer laterals in total and the approximate cost to complete a typical repair within the roadway is around $10,000 to $15,000.

In response to a question from Trustee Respicio Vazquez regarding location of damage, Loster indicated the majority are between the property and the curb, adding, “We don’t get a lot in the roadway.”

Loster added that the village experiences one or two sewer lateral repairs per year but expects that number to increase if the subsidy program is adopted.

In response to a question from Trustee Katie Brennan, Loster explained that he believes advertising the shared cost will generate more interest.

Other program details would include ongoing maintenance, such as root clearing and debris removal would be the responsibility of the property owner from the building to the sewer main; only structural damage such as pipe collapse or separation of connection at the main under the roadway would qualify for reimbursement; the location of the damage is to be determined by a plumber/contractor hired by the property owner and verified by village staff, the cost of which could be reimbursable, based on the program’s maximum reimbursement criteria; the property owner would be responsible for hiring a licensed contractor and would need to apply for a permit through the village’s online permit portal; work would need to be warrantied for a minimum of three years; and all applicants and payments would be continually tracked to monitor program participation on an ongoing basis.

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