Meeting observer: Georgia Gebhardt
Meeting time: 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Trustees present: Senta Plunkett, Bob Belinski, Kathy Dodd Julie Wolf
Trustees absent: Joel Kurzman, Daniel Sullivan
Citizen Comments: Resident of area west of Skokie Blvd. and south of Lake Avenue appealed to trustees to pay attention to that area of Wilmette. He said that they felt that the new Storm Water project does not meet the needs of their neighborhood and that it is important that all citizens of Wilmette feel like they are benefiting from the project.
The consent agenda was passed unanimously. Four candidates for commission positions were introduced: William Muno for Environmental & Energy Commission, Carmen Corbett, Historic Preservation Commission, Richard Brill, Appearance Review, Rebecca Boyd, Environmental & Energy Commission, and Benjamin Schmitt, Transportation Commission.They will be officially appointed at the next board meeting.
Also at the next meeting, the Board will appoint and seat George M. Pearce as the replacement for Stephen Leonard who has resigned.
After a few announcements, the board adjourned.
Topic: Discussion & Determination of Path Forward Regarding Storm Sewer System
Present: Trustees Kathy Dodd, Joel Kurzman, Julie Wolf, Dan Sullivan, Senta Plunkett and Board President: Bob Bielinski.
The meeting on April 17th followed a two-month Village-wide public education and listening initiative to help residents understand the challenges in managing stormwater during heavy rainfalls. The focus of the initiative was on flood damage in the section of Wilmette that is west of Ridge Road. In newsletters and during open houses, residents were introduced to the advantages, challenges, and costs of three very different approaches to reducing the frequency, severity and duration of overland flooding. A comprehensive review of the options can be found on the Village website (www.WilmetteStormwater.com).
The meeting began with a brief history of the engineering studies that led up to the final recommendations. This was followed by a review of benefits and limitations of each of three, divergent plans for relieving flooding. The task at hand on Tuesday night was for the Village Board to decide which of the plans best met the needs of the community and then to prepare official directives for the steps toward implementation.
Three final plans and estimated costs:
Plan 1: Sewer System Expansion - cost up to $108 million Plan 2: Sewer System Expansion & Stormwater Storage Hybrid - cost up to $91 million
Plan 3: Stormwater Storage - cost up to $60 million
Two questions served to frame most of the discussion for the trustees:
The issue of being fiscally responsible was a main decider... here is why:
Disadvantages/Potential Compensating Options for the Board’s Choice
Additional incentives for choosing Plan 3+ were noted
Call for follow-up
To assess the effectiveness of Plan 3+, trustees built into the request to staff a requirement to perform follow up evaluations.
The final directions for the staff were to do the following:
“Issue a request for proposal for preliminary engineering for all 3 underground storage facilities and design engineering for the Community Playfield/Centennial, upsize two relief sewer pipes to allow future flexibility to add on Sewer Expansion (Option 1), include green infrastructure as a component of the preliminary engineering design, have the Municipal Services Committee review public/private partnerships for green improvements, include in the 10-year capital improvement plan a study to determine the effectiveness of the improvements once complete and identify additional improvements as appropriate.”
Fiscal Responsibility and Faster Relief Drove the Village Board Decision
Trudy Gibbs - Observer
Wilmette Village Hall Council Chambers
Meeting started at 7:33 p.m. and ended at 9:15 p.m. and all trustees were present.
Steven Nectow of Old Glenview Road identified himself as a friend of a property owner in Wilmette [owners Robert and Rosa Levin] who is involved in litigation against the village and asked if the village would consider an out-of-court settlement.
Jeffrey Stein responded that the village had considered a settlement and rejected the idea. He explained that there has been 10 years of litigation. Mr. Stein explained that the village had reached out with a settlement in the past which had been denied by the plaintiffs. The village attempted to work this out, but the village isn’t going to capitulate because codes and ordinances need to be met.
Beth Drucker spoke on behalf of Go Green Wilmette to thank the village for sponsoring the 12th annual Going Green Matters event. She expressed appreciation for help from the police department, park district, the staff of Michigan Shores, and said that more than 1,400 people participated from 18 different communities. She said she received lots of feedback from other communities that appreciated it and thanked the village for its sponsorship and cooperation. President Bielinski said that the event makes Wilmette look very and that it is a great community resource.
A new ordinance to increase the minimum age to 21 to purchase tobacco in Wilmette was passed on the consent agenda. President Bielinski said that Trustee Plunkett championed the ordinance.
Reports of Officers President Bielinski declared the 50th anniversary of the month of April as National Fair Housing Month, proclaiming that Wilmette finds that decent, safe, and affordable housing is a goal of all Illinois residents.
Trustee Plunkett said that Wilmette now joins 14 other area communities in raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21. She added that studies show that 25% of tobacco users are under 18 and that 90% buying tobacco for them are under age 21. Trustee Plunkett explained that the ordinance includes vaping products. She said that there is similar pending legislation in the state, and that she received no pushback, only support, and that this might have been one of easiest things village board has passed.
Standing Committee Reports
Joe Johnson from Stantec presented a report on the stormwater action plan to answer some questions raised at the previous open house. He said that green stormwater infrastructure can reduce volume and peak rate of runoff, but that these systems are of limited effectiveness for intense storms. He said that if there were a 10’x20’ rain garden on every residential property in west wilmette, this would result in a 2.4” reduction in flood levels for a 10-year event.
He then explained that permeable pavement on one block of a residential street could store 38,500 gallons of storage. He continued that for the plan’s “option one”, 60% of the streets could be potentially restored as permeable. He said that a full implementation would provide less than 10% of the storage needed for the 10-year storm event and up to 6” of reduction in flood levels. He said that the savings from the resulting reduction in sewer size requirements would be offset somewhat by the increased cost in permeable pavement. He added that these permeable pavements are typically used in parking lots, not full width streets, and that their long-term durability is unknown.
Mr. Johnson then explained the usefulness of parkway bioswales, which are effectively roadside ditches, they would be decorative, and water would be detained before it goes into storm sewer. He then demonstrated some geographic and other limitations of using these, and added that the cost would be about $35,000 to $55,000 per block.
Mr. Johnson explained that green infrastructure can complement not replace traditional improvements. He said that significant green stormwater infrastructure elements could be included for an additional 5% cost to the project.
Mr. Johnson then introduced some additional stormwater plan options. He said that sewer expansion plus neighborhood storage would cost $70M to $80M as proposed, and that to get to 10-year storm protection would cost between $85M and $100M, which is in the cost range of option 1, achieving similar results but at higher cost. He added that the work could be phased. He showed another option with neighborhood storage plus full sewer expansion at a cost of $120M to $135M which would provide 25 to 50-year storm protection. He said that 100-year protection had a significantly higher cost.
He then showed a 20-year phased plan for neighborhood storage plus sewer expansion, where construction would begin in 2022 and complete in 2037.
Mr. Johnson introduced a 25-year protection plan with full sewer expansion plus storage, and said this also could be phased. He said it’s effectively “option one” and “option three” combined and showed a 30-year phased plan where construction would start in 2020 and complete in 2047.
This was followed by discussion about finances and interest rates, and how each of the options might affect the park district.
There was discussion about moving the proposed Centennial Park reservoir to Community Playfield. Mr. Johnson explained that locating the storage at Centennial Park would require at least 10 feet of wasted digging because of elevation. He said that Community Playfield is lower and offers more flexible size, shape, placement and wouldn’t need to be excavated as deeply, possibly saving $1M.
Mr. Johnson then explained why buying out flood-prone homes is not feasible. He said buying out houses does reduce local damage and create open space, but does not reduce flood levels. It was discussed that the cost of buying houses quickly becomes far more expensive than fixing the problems.
Truste Kurzman then took the floor to express his concern about phasing that a project that brings just 10-year flood protection that isn’t completed until 2027 or 2037 is not showing enough urgency. He said that 10-year flood protection comes from data collected between 1900 and 1983, and that climate change is upon us and what we’re experiencing is much more significant.
Second Public Comment
Denis Roberts of Lacrosse Avenue suggested a community-wide referendum. It was explained to him that citizens would have to drive this and that it could only be advisory in nature.
Karleen McAllester from Wilshire Drive expressed that she believes the community is frustrated that the 2009 study came up with many of the same options and cost estimates, and that much of the same information is still being discussed in 2018, leading people in the community to fear that nothing may happen to solve the problem. She added that much has been completed on the east side of Wilmette, including green infrastructure, and that the same level of work and protection now should be done on the west side. She expressed her support of “option one,” keeping it simple, stay focused on the original goal of 10-year storm protection across the entire village, along with green infrastructure. She said to use the infrastructure we already have, such as the pumping station.
Beth Drucker from Greenwood Avenue said that at today’s Go Green Illinois meeting they had discussed road construction and wondered if Wilmette is going to install permeable roads and parking lots so they could be used to collect and retain water. President Bielinski said that they had discussed this during this meeting and that these options are being considered.
Martha Hellender from Thornwood Avenue said she is an organic gardener and said she’s concerned about environmental issues. She said she has lived in Wilmette for 25 years and only recently learned that ten years ago the village passed an ordinance to create an environment and energy commission (EEC.) President Bielinski interjected and offered her the opportunity to be a commissioner. She said she would like to see the commission activated to do what it was supposed to do, which was to advise the board with more information and to address some of the questions that have been raised.
Joe Lunkes from Park Avenue said he has memories of former east-Wilmette flood problems and expressed empathy for the west side. He said has several brothers who are engineers and he suggested that the village use green solutions plus regulators and street berms, as well as remedial home improvements instead of spending $90 million. He said he doesn’t like how current sewer bills are computed based on water consumption and expressed support for fees based on impermeable surfaces. He then said he thought the most equitable way to compute fees would be by dividing evenly by the number of homeowner units.
Tom Scanlon from 10th and Chestnut and said Gillson Park would be a good test for permeable pavement. He then told the story of MWRD and Glenview buying and tearing down houses in Glenview. He also said that residents don’t know what impervious surface fees are and that the village should communicate this better. He said he feels this fee structure is the fairest method and is being used in St. Louis.
Karleen McAllester asked the village engineer to respond to Mr. Lunkes’s comments about storing water on streets. Ms. Berger explained that 10 years ago the village conducted a pilot study street detention by restricting inlets and creating berms, and the design engineer determined that the storm sewers were already so self restricting and the streets were already flooding, so it would only exacerbate the problem to design the system to flood the streets even further.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 p.m.
Submitted by Jeff Axelrod