WILMETTE – The Wilmette Village Board of Trustees narrowed the flood control options down to three from the original four options under consideration at a Committee of the Whole meeting held on December 12.
While Village President Bob Bielinski urged fellow trustees to choose their top two choices, some trustees had trouble narrowing the options down to just two, while others had varying opinions on the best choice.
For now, option three — which would provide a smaller amount of new sewer lines than other options and did not include the addition of storage areas at a price tag between $55 and $65 million — is off the table.
But the trustees did raise concerns about leaving some residents behind as the village considers an infrastructure plan of such great scale. Trustee Stephen Leonard backed the most expensive project known as option 1 — it entails laying 8 miles of new, storm relief sewer lines west of Ridge Road at a projected cost of $80 to $95 million — in the hopes that it would help the majority of residents impacted by flooding.
“The thing I struggle with is who you leave behind and what areas to cover and not to cover,” Leonard said. “If we do this we should serve as many homes as we possibly can,” he added.
Leonard said his second choice would be option 2, which is the second most costly plan at about $70 to $80 million and would add a smaller amount of new sewer lines than option 1, as well as a floodwater storage area in Kenilworth Gardens.
But Trustee Kathy Dodd supported more of a phased in approach. “I don’t see this as doing all or nothing. I think we as a community always have to be investing in infrastructure,” she said. Trustee Dodd urged the board to consider a longer term approach that could take five to 10 years, similar to how the village improves its roads. “I would be reluctant to put everything into option 1,” she said, noting her support for option 2 and an evaluation of option 4.
President Bob Bielinski and trustees Julie Wolf and Dan Sullivan all expressed an interest in a long-term view of the project.
President Bielinski noted that immediately tackling option 4 — which includes neighborhood floodwater storage sites at Thornwood Park, Centennial Park and the Community Recreation Center for about $45 to $55 million — would provide some residents with immediate relief. The village could then turn to a long-term 20 year plan that gradually invested in option 1.
Likewise, Trustee Wolf took a long-term view but thought option 2 was a better choice. “I agree with what Trustee Dodd said that this is on-going thing,” Trustee Wolf said. Wolf noted that option 2 combined new sewer lines with neighborhood storage, and could be added onto down the line. “That would give pretty good coverage now. None of these options give 100 percent coverage,” she said. Trustee Sullivan backed option 4 combined with a long term strategy over a 20 year period to implement option 1.
Trustee Joel Kurzman who has backed option 1 in prior meetings said he would eliminate option 4 because it does not address conveyance. Beyond that, he said he was unable to narrow the option down to just two.
Given the mixed views, President Bielinski opted to move forward with options 1, 2 and 4 at this stage. In January, the village will embark on a public education and engagement plan with the community before any decision is made. “I really think this public education piece is important,” President Bielinski said.
According information on the village website, all of the options would be financed through debt proceeds to be paid back over 30 years. Currently, the board is considering instituting a stormwater utility fee to pay for whatever project they ultimately choose. Residents can estimate the impact of the proposed stormwater project on their own water and sewer bill using a calculator tool on the village’s website.