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Open house offers residents closer look at drainage plan

Flossmoor Public Works Director John Brunke, left, answers residents’ questions about a proposed drainage project at an open house Jan. 23. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

Flossmoor residents gathered at village hall on Tuesday, Jan. 23, to learn more about the proposed drainage project that is designed to relieve flooding downtown and in neighborhoods south of the downtown area.

Village staff and representatives from Baxter & Woodman Consulting Engineers were on hand to show the plans, explain how the system would work and answer questions.

The project would improve drainage capacity, adding larger storm sewer lines and a retention basin near Heather Hill School. 

Flossmoor Public Works Director John Brunke said the plans are being refined and should be ready soon. He expects the bid process to begin by early April if the District 161 Board of Education approves the project. 

He said construction on the basin near the school could begin this summer. The new sewer line would follow and could be finished by next spring.

The project is estimated to cost about $7.8 million, although engineers are working to trim that number if they can, Brunke said. He noted that the village has $3.2 million committed to the project and has applied for more funding, including $1 million or more from the Army Corp of Engineers.

The village has budgeted money from a bond sale voters approved in 2020 to address flooding and street improvements to complete funding for the project.

One cost variable that is still under discussion is the amount of work that will be required under the viaduct itself. 

Brunke said traffic through the viaduct will be affected for a month or two, but if existing pipes can be used, and the amount of digging can be reduced, then the length of time and the cost could be reduced.

Matthew Moffitt, associate vice president of water resources and natural resources for Baxter & Woodman, said the project is important not only for easing downtown flooding but for fulfilling the potential of the Berry Lane drainage project that was essentially completed in 2022. 
That work won a Project of the Year Award from the Southwest Branch of the American Public Works Association Chicago Metro Chapter.

The addition of the new sewer line and retention basin are Phase 2 of the Berry Lane project, Moffit said.

“The storm water (reduction) is a lot better than it was, but it’s not reaching its full potential yet,” he said. “This basin is part of that plan. It’s all interconnected.”

Flossmoor Mayor Michelle Nelson said the completion of the drainage project to help protect the downtown area from flooding is key to supporting businesses and residents. 

Although a serious flood in 2019 that damaged businesses along Sterling Avenue brought attention to the problem, Nelson said flooding has been an issue for many years.

“The flood incidents go back to when the viaduct was built,” she said. “Nobody ever fixed it.”

She said former trustees have told her about times as far back as the 1950s and ‘60s when floods would force businesses to close.

“For Flossmoor to remain a vibrant community that welcomes small businesses, it’s really important that we fix this problem,” she said. “About 90% of the small business owners in our downtown area are all women and minority owned businesses. I think by doing this project mindfully with the use of federal and local grants, we’re able to stretch our dollars.”

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