Stormwater fee a priority in Libertyville, but timing may be delayed

Like leaders in every other community, Libertyville officials are nervous about how COVID-19 will affect various budget plans.

One of the most prominent for Libertyville will be the status of a $45.5 million master stormwater management plan created to address chronic flooding villagewide.

The plan was prompted after 7.5 inches of rain fell in 12 hours in July 2017, flooding hundreds of homes.

There has been nothing that intense since, but the 6 inches that fell in a five-day period ending May 17 flooded several streets and was a reminder there still is work to be done.

Village leaders determined a stormwater utility fee should be established to pay for that.

How the stormwater fee should be structured hasn't been determined, but it was assumed it would be implemented in January 2021. By the end of the fiscal year, April 30, 2021, the new fund was expected to produce about $400,000 and $1.3 million over a year. That was before COVID-19.

The question is whether or how long the village will delay implementing the new fee. Deferring it would be understandable due to the economic downturn, but the fee will be needed at some point for construction, Finance Director Nick Mostardo told the village board's finance committee.

The 2020-21 adopted budget calls for a $1 million loan from the general fund to the village's stormwater fund in advance of the new stormwater fee's going into effect. But Mostardo said such a loan is "no longer fiscally prudent" because there is no fee in place to repay it. Instead, he suggested making it a transfer, reducing the amount to $500,000 and using a portion of the voter-approved village sales tax, which will become available in October to offset some of the difference.

Without adjustments, he added, it will be impossible to pay for the engineering for the next phase of improvements involving the Rockland Road corridor east of Route 21 or for the flood-prone Highlands subdivision. Both involve replacing storm sewers with larger ones.

Village leaders agreed to proceed with creating a stormwater fee and will consider options in July. The implementation date will be reviewed monthly.

"The key point is if we agree the actual implementation is going to be delayed, three months, five months - we need another plan," said finance committee Chairman Rich Moras.

Board members also agreed to keep the engineering for the two stormwater projects on track. Design contracts are expected to be presented to the board in a month or so, said Public Works Director Paul Kendzior.

On Rockland Road, the next phase is to install and connect larger storm sewers to a new main line that already is in place. Besides larger storm sewers, more water storage is planned for the Highlands, which includes Ames, Burdick, Carter, Dawes and Drake streets and Crane Boulevard and Rockland Road west of Route 21.

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