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updated: 9/4/2013 2:54 PM

Wheeling officials: Proposed stormwater fee could help fight flooding

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Without enough money to maintain infrastructure designed to reduce flooding, Wheeling officials may impose a stormwater fee on residents to help pay for upkeep and improvements.

The village board agreed Tuesday to study implementing a fee for all properties in the community.

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"Flooding is one of the most important focal points of what public works does," said Director of Public Works Anthony J. Stavros.

The village does not have enough funds to maintain its existing stormwater infrastructure -- culverts, catch basins and inlets, detention areas and stream banks -- much less improve them, Stavros said. It costs $500,000 annually to maintain the system, which encompasses 6,600 drainage structures, 70 miles of storm sewer pipes and seven miles of waterways, he told trustees this week.

Properties could be charged according to the amount of impervious surface -- roofs, parking lots, driveways, patios and decks -- they contain. Or a flat fee could be imposed.

Stavros assured officials that any fee imposed would not be onerous for homeowners. More and more municipalities are instituting such fees, and Rolling Meadows, a pioneer in the area, started its more than a decade ago, he said.

The village's costs of maintaining the system will increase as state and federal requirements get stronger, Stavros added.

Several trustees indicated support for the fee. "We can't get any help or grants without showing them we are trying to do something on our own," said Trustee Mary Krueger, who lives in an area with flooding issues.

"Every time we have a flood in town we all pay for overtime, renting equipment and cleanup," Trustee Kenneth R. Brady added.

Officials noted that during large storms water comes to Wheeling from other communities, and large projects like reservoirs being built in Heritage Park and Levee 37 help communities downstream more than Wheeling.

Village President Dean Argiris said he has told representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Army Corps of Engineers that it is time to address Wheeling's flooding issues.

A Buffalo Creek reservoir expansion seems closer to reality and "would help us tremendously," Argiris said.

"We need a game plan before they can help us with things," he added.

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