A rendering included in the May 15 Flossmoor board packet shows a proposed stormwater detention basin adjacent to Heather Hill School. (Provided image)
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D161 board, residents question village detention basin proposal

A rendering shows the layout of the proposed storm water detention basin Flossmoor officials say would relieve downtown and Berry Lane flooding issues. (Provided image)

A plan to dig a detention basin behind Heather Hill School met concern and some stormy opposition at a District 161 Special Board of Education meeting on Feb. 19.

The Monday board meeting began with comments from the audience. Some community members spoke in favor of the plan, while others were opposed. Several residents presented reasons why the Village of Flossmoor should not dig a large depression to hold rainwater next to the school.

“My primary concern is the safety and well-being of the children,” Ashly Giddens told the large audience. “Placing a 12-foot detention basin near the playground poses several significant risks that we cannot endure.”

In addition to safety, the concerns from the audience and the board surrounded the effectiveness of the basin. According to the engineers and village officials, the detention basin will hold enough water to stop some flooding at the Flossmoor Road viaduct. Still, it will not be large enough to alleviate the risk of flooding during a huge storm, sometimes called a 100-year storm.


Crystal Cleggett asked, “What else could we put this $8 million towards? This project is not doing the immediate gratification where there is absolutely no flooding. So, I’m just really asking them to take this into consideration.”

Monique Masker owned a business that was affected by the flooding. “I am no longer there because of the flooding issues that I experienced. It flooded more than three times.” She explained that she could not get flood insurance for her business because of the property’s history. The accumulated losses from the flooding contributed to her decision to close her doors for good.

H-F Park District tennis courts would have to be removed to make way for the proposed storm water detention basin. (Chronicle file photo)

John Yast lives across the street from the park district tennis courts and the school field the village hopes to use to hold stormwater. “Although the engineers say that the basin is perfectly safe, they are also willing to put a fence around the entire property,” Yast said. “The village needs the cooperation of the school district and the park district. I am here to ask you to withhold your cooperation. I’m not looking forward to seeing a big no-trespassing pit across the street.”

Flossmoor resident and parent Deven Gibbs said, “I am not in favor of putting bars around my kids’ school. They have a nice open field to run and feel free. The kids play in the playground during school, when they are out of school, and after school. Our tennis court is used throughout the day.” 

Village officials first presented the plan for the detention basin in May 2023. At the time, Superintendent Dana Smith told the board that the field behind and next to Heather Hill School could get muddy during the school year, and the school rarely uses it for this reason. Water frequently pools into puddles around the playground as well. The village offered to fix these issues during construction if they were allowed to dig the basin on school property.

Bridget Wachtel, Flossmoor village manager, told the board that the project’s primary goals are to allow access for public safety vehicles, protect the local economy and protect residential property in the Heather Hill neighborhood. 

“This project will enhance the improvements on Berry Lane,” Wachtel said. “Flood mitigation will enhance private property values.”

“Rainfall is not getting less,” said Public Works Director John Brunke. “It is getting more intense and more often.” Brunke showed the board several photos of the flooded viaduct and provided some examples of what the Heather Hill detention basin might look like when the work is completed. He also reminded the board that the basin is designed to hold water temporarily and will empty nine hours after a rain event concludes.

Several board members were not satisfied with the information provided by Brunke and the representative from the engineering firm hired by the village. 

Cameron Nelson, vice president of the District 161 board, asked why the village was even considering the project. 

“If the 100-year storm is the only event that floods businesses, and this doesn’t mitigate that, why are we even doing this?” He asked Brunke to come back with records of how many times the businesses had flooded and the recorded rainfalls associated with them. 

Board member David Linnear was also critical of the project and what he said were inconsistencies within the presentation. “When I listen to what you guys are saying, it’s not the same,” Linnear said. “It doesn’t give me confidence that you thought about the design. It doesn’t give me confidence that you looked thoroughly at all options.”

“I am being asked to consider the possibility of allowing something that reduces the safety of the students at the school,” board member Michael Rouse II said. “I expect a heightened level of clarity in terms of how I move forward with my decision.”

Village officials said they would provide more information for the school board before their next meeting on March 18. 

Audience members can participate in the comment portion of the agenda at a District 161 Board of Education meeting by adding their names to a signup sheet before the meeting.

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