Plenty of Flossmoor homeowners and business owners found themselves cleaning up after a record-setting rain brought water and even sewage into their homes on Sept. 27.
But a flood of complaints at Monday’s village board meeting might bring relief sooner than later if residents agree to foot the multimillion-dollar cost of repairs.
The storm that dumped about seven inches of rain in a 24-hour period wreaked havoc across town. Water trapped cars in the Flossmoor Road viaduct, broke through the windows of Coldwell Banker’s downtown office and caused countless basement backups, particularly along Dartmouth Avenue after Butterfield Creek rose eight feet, said John Brunke, public works director.
Homeowner Larry Kane said his house on Evans Road was inundated by 55,000 gallons of water and raw sewage, while several homeowners on Berry Lane described how their street became an impassable lake and numerous houses took on water in the basement — and not for the first time.
“You talk about cars trapped in the viaduct, but one resident lost his car in his own driveway on Berry Lane,” said resident Lillie Lacey.
Village officials were sympathetic but pointed out that fixing the all the troublesome spots in town would be an expensive project that could take five to 20 years to complete. The reply frustrated numerous audience members.
“We need a concrete time frame,” said Stan Harris, whose house on Berry has flooded four times in five years.
At the end of a nearly two-hour discussion, Mayor Paul Braun said it was time to put the matter before voters.
“We’re already preparing a $10 million bond issue [to repave the streets]. Maybe it should be for $25 million and address all these flooding problems,” he said.
“If the community wants these fixes, we shouldn’t be waiting five or ten or 20 years. If we’re going to go to referendum, let’s tackle the problem.”
The cost to install a larger sewer under the viaduct was estimated at $2.7 million in 2005 and would likely cost more today, Brunke said. A separate project to relieve flooding on Berry Lane, which is a low area in the Heather Hill neighborhood, could cost a similar amount, Brunke said.
Village Manager Bridget Wachtel said staff are aggressively pursuing help at the county level to secure state funds, and that U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, is seeking help for Flossmoor through the Army Corps of Engineers. Staff also are urging the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to spend dollars in Flossmoor. Braun pointed out that MWRD’s recent Cherry Creek project near Homewood-Flossmoor High School had significantly reduced flooding in that area.
In some cases, the homeowner must foot the bill to upgrade old gravity-fed sewer lines, like the one that contributed to Kane’s basement filling with sewage, board members said.
“I feel for you,” Trustee Jim Mitros told Kane. “But you have to protect your own property.”
Kane pressed the issue.
“But why did it only happen to me?” Kane said. “I’m having a tough time understanding how 55,000 gallons of the village’s sewage wound up in my home. Ten of my neighbors got water up to their garages but had dry basements. For me, the water stayed 40 feet away from my house but I got 55,000 gallons in my basement.”
Braun told him, “It’s a combination problem. The solution lies in [installing] an overhead sewer for you.”
Trustee Brian Driscoll added, “I’ve had flooding and blamed it on the village. We’ve all been there. But it turns out we had pipes from 1953 with cracks in them. It was expensive but we replaced them.”
Trustee Dianne Williams recommended the village host meetings for residents to educate them about the best steps they can take to remediate flooding in their homes, including the pricey installation of overhead sewers.
Berry Lane homeowner Lillie Lacey was unmoved. “We have overhead sewers,” she said. “We need the village to do something.”