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updated: 9/10/2013 4:46 PM

Prospect Hts. funding to 'whittle away' at flooding in doubt

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The Prospect Heights City Council wants to "whittle away" at flooding problems in the city, attacking the most serious first, but aldermen showed little interest this week in finding local ways to fund millions of dollars needed.

City Engineer Jim Johnson reviewed a consultant's study of five areas of the city and told aldermen he could provide information about establishing stormwater utility fees or special service areas to raise funds to improve stormwater management.

"You have huge, huge decisions to make," he said, saying spending $1 million to help 200 houses is one thing, but then do you spend the same amount for five houses? Purchasing the homes or helping residents flood proof each residence might be less expensive.

Johnson suggested going forward with engineering work for improvements in the Lake Claire/Shires Pond and Elm Street/Willow Road areas. In a memo to the council, he added his recommendations to a report from Christopher B. Burke Engineering.

At a council meeting Monday, aldermen seemed to prefer tackling some stormwater improvements during the upcoming budget talks and perhaps seeking grants for future projects.

• In the Lake Claire/Shires Pond area, Johnson recommended the city spend $55,000 for engineers to model improving both ponds. This would tell whether improvements can keep Lake Claire lower during at least moderate storms. Other recommendations from Burke include using television to investigate the drainage systems in the area and replacing a restrictor at Lake Claire and perhaps moving it. Burke estimates the total cost of recommended improvements at just over $200,000.

• In the Elm Street and Willow Road area just west of Route 83, drainage corrections made during road repairs improved the situation for a house that previously was inundated, said Johnson. It will cost an estimated $310,000 to replace the drainage tile under Elm Street and in the rear yards of houses at the southeast corner of Elm and Willow. Issues include the fact that the sewers are private and the improvements would require going into homes' rear yards where substantial trees exist.

• The storm system in the Eastside TIF has been cleaned of debris, helping drainage in the area, said Johnson. In some sections, this required cleaning 16 times, including removing cinder blocks and even a partial wall someone had installed. He recommends waiting until Levee 37 is completed before taking more action in the neighborhood. Other Burke recommendations would cost more than $3 million.

• The city has improved drainage in the Dorset area with short-term improvements recommended by Burke. Johnson recommended against the longer-term projects because they are costly and it is questionable whether agencies involved would approve them. The cost would be more than $3.7 million.

• Short-term improvements will be made in the Arlington Countryside area with the road repairs. After evaluating these improvements, officials might want to increase water storage in the area, said Johnson. Burke also suggested routing water into Arlington Heights or Illinois Department of Transportation stormwater systems, but Johnson said those governmental bodies are unlikely to give approval. More water storage would cost $1.8 million plus land acquisition, said Johnson.

Johnson also said that public works crews walk every creek in town after every rain of one inch or more, taking debris from every culvert and bridge.

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