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updated: 9/12/2012 1:40 PM

Flood control project finally getting underway

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  • The blueprint for Heritage Park renovations.

      The blueprint for Heritage Park renovations.
    Courtesy of the Wheeling Park District

  • Work on the $29 million project to renovate Heritage Park will begin anew.

       Work on the $29 million project to renovate Heritage Park will begin anew.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
By Marie Denecke
mdenecke@dailyherald.com

If suburban residents were starting to wonder what was happening with the Heritage Park Flood Control project, the answer for the past few months would be: Nothing.

A dispute between the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the Village of Wheeling about the size of the MWRD's upfront payment delayed start of construction.

However, the $29 million project that's expected to provide several Northwest suburbs major relief from Des Plaines River flooding -- and give Wheeling a newly renovated park -- will start now, since the two sides reached an agreement this week.

"Construction will start this week," confirmed MWRD spokeswoman Allison Fore in an email to the Daily Herald.

The agreement was reached Friday night, more than three months after groundbreaking in early June. Since then, little work has taken place.

Wheeling Village Manager Jon Sfondilis blamed the delay on negotiations between the MWRD, which is funding the entire cost of the flood control project, and the village.

According to Sfondilis, an April 2010 agreement between the village, the MWRD and the Wheeling Park District states that the MWRD will pay 3.5 percent of the $20 million construction costs upfront, to cover costs the village incurs during the project. The remaining $9 million went to buy the needed land.

The percentage -- in this case totaling roughly $700,000 -- is a standard measure in the construction business, he added, and is laid out in the village code. It covers the estimated costs the village will incur by the village staff, like in-house engineers and inspectors checking on the project as the village is obligated to, said Sfondilis.

The MWRD, however, never agreed to this fee, Fore argued in an earlier email, also calling the amount of money "unreasonable." The fee, the email states, comes in addition to the approximately $67,000 in other permit fees the village has assessed" and is "not in the best interest of taxpayers."

In hopes of a resolution for this major project, Sfondilis said, the village twice has reduced the percentage -- first to 2.5 percent, and, on Wednesday, to 1.5 percent, totaling $300,000, which the MWRD has agreed to pay.

As the original 3.5 percentage of all construction cost covers only an estimated amount of money, taxpayers will not have to fill the void and there will be no negative financial impact for the Village of Wheeling, said Sfondilis.

The project will build six stormwater storage basins that will have the capacity to hold more than 49 million gallons of floodwater, bringing relief to downstream communities like Prospect Heights, Mount Prospect and Des Plaines.

The other side of Heritage Park will be renovated, with a new athletic complex featuring four artificial turf fields, three for baseball and another for football or soccer.

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