New fee will fund flood control projects in Libertyville

A fee to fund an estimated $53 million in projects to address local flooding has been enacted in Libertyville.

Village officials on Tuesday officially approved a long-discussed stormwater utility fee as a reliable source of revenue to pay for designated projects during the next 15 years.

Largely based on the amount of impervious surface on a given property, this type of financing was determined to be the most equitable and appropriate to generate dedicated funding for flood reduction work.

"I think it's the right thing to do," Trustee Jay Justice said.

The fee goes into effect Sept. 1 and will cost the average residential customer $156 a year, according to the village. Continued public outreach, website updates and other adjustments are planned in the interim.

The move comes nearly four years after Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd. was hired to create a master stormwater management plan.

A historic storm in July 2017 dropped 7.5 inches of rain in 12 hours, flooded hundreds of homes and served as an exclamation point. Village officials had been discussing a long-term solution to chronic localized flooding well before Burke was hired in May 2017.

According to the village, surface flooding in certain locations during moderate and heavy rain is due to stormwater and drainage systems built before modern standards, as well as a lack of suitable detention areas and safe overland routes for water to flow.

Adopted in May 2019, Burke's master plan identified potential flooding locations throughout Libertyville and projects prioritized by estimated total cost and benefits.

Next, the village needed to determine a consistent and reliable revenue source to pay for them. Within three months, the village hired Maryland-based NewGen Strategies and Solutions LLC to develop a capital plan and identify utility fee options.

The first part of that study was completed in July 2020. The village board determined a 15-year list of projects funded by an assessment on the impervious surface on a given property was in order.

At the time, NewGen noted project costs had risen from $45.5 million to $53 million because of inflation.

In the second part of the study, a database of billing parcels was created, a website with a lookup tool introduced, and virtual town meetings held.

Village officials have been united in the opinion a stormwater utility fee is needed. The fee is expected to generate about $2.1 million per year and will be used solely to build the projects and to repair, rehab or replace existing facilities.

"We're going to significantly reduce the impact of flooding to our residents," Trustee Pete Garrity said.

First up is work to install and connect larger storm sewers to the new main line in place on Rockland Road, possibly this summer depending on the status of a pending state grant.

Final engineering to install larger storm sewers and increase water storage for the Highlands area, also is planned.

"When the dust settles in 15 years or 20 years, hindsight will say we did the right thing," Garrity said.

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Storm sewer pipes installed along Rockland Road east of Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville in 2019 are part of a larger project to reduce flooding. The last part of the Rockland Road Corridor project is anticipated this summer. Courtesy of village of Libertyville, 2019
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