WILMETTE – The Village of Wilmette will contemplate two controversial, large-scale projects in 2017 that aim to improve services and enhance recreational activities for residents. Village officials will weigh whether to invest $77 million in the village’s stormwater system west of Ridge Road, while the Park District will continue its scaled-back plans for Gillson Park beach.
In 2016, Wilmette officials held several meetings to discuss a stormwater proposal by consultants Christopher Burke Engineering. While some residents who spoke at an October 20 meeting expressed concern that the project was too costly and would not solve all the flooding issues, others urged the village to tackle a problem that has plagued portions of west Wilmette for years.
In the last few years the North Shore has experienced significant rainstorms causing homes and streets to flood. Wilmette’s sewer system west of Ridge Road was constructed in the 1950s and does not have the capacity to handle rainstorms greater than a two-year rainstorm.
The Burke proposal includes building a new sewer system from Ridge Road to the village’s western limits that would keep flood levels below street level for up to a 10-year storm event. But the proposal won’t solve all flooding — in low-lying areas, occasional flooding will still occur — just not as badly or last as long.
The proposed plan includes installing 42,000 feet of new trunk and lateral sewers that would collect and convey excess stormwater to a pump station on Lake Avenue, which discharges into the north branch of the Chicago River. The entire project would take about five years to construct if approved, and is projected to cause significant traffic delays, utility conflicts and disruption to the golf course.
Ultimately, village officials will have to weigh the cost of the project versus improved services for some village residents. To cover the high cost of the project, water and sewer rates would be raised by $625 per household over the next 30 years. The proposed stormwater project also comes on the heels of the completion of the $18.5 million West Park sanitary storage project.
A value-engineering study is underway to validate the results, analysis and cost estimates of Burke’s proposal.
Dressing up Gillson Beach
While village officials tackle the stormwater issue in 2017, Park District officials will move forward on a new beach house for Gillson beach, as well as a newly designed parking lot. In December, the Park District board selected architects Woodhouse Tinucci for the project. Woodhouse designed nearby Highland Park’s beach facilities and the boathouse at Northwestern University.
Since the $14.5 million lakefront referendum was overwhelming rejected by voters in April 2015, the Park District has been working toward developing a scaled-back plan for the lakefront parks, which would include new beach house for Gillson Park. The beach house will be smaller in size than the 2015 proposal. In July, the park board decided to make a new beach house and parking lot a priority, after reviewing residents’ input from a community-wide survey on potential lakefront improvements.
Going forward, Park District Director Steve Wilson will work with Woodhouse Tinucci Architects to finalize the terms of the contract with plans to complete this process by January, but no later than February. The Park Board agreed in November 2016 not to tackle any construction in 2017, but instead budgeted just for design work.