For a few weeks now, Forest Park officials and an engineer from the village’s longtime consulting firm, Christopher Burke Engineering, Ltd., have been brainstorming environmentally friendly ways to mitigate the town’s flooding problems.

It’s part of an effort to access grant money from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) for “green” infrastructure that could allay overflowing from the town’s combined sewer system, which has occurred during heavy rains. The trio kicking around ideas includes Village Administrator Tim Gillian, Commissioner Chris Harris and Jim Amelio, an engineer from Christopher Burke.

The village wants a slice of the $5 million the IEPA is giving out annually as part of its ongoing Green Infrastructure Grant Program for Stormwater Management (IGIG). The program awards cash reimbursements for environmentally friendly projects that deal with storm-water runoff and water-quality protection.

Amelio said the group’s effort is still “in its infancy” although he described a few plans that could find their way into grant proposals.

One approach would have the village seek funding to create another green alley, Amelio said.

“We would put in a permeable pavement, at least down the center of the alley and water can percolate into the ground … as opposed to going into the sewer,” Amelio said.

Last year, the village received $100,000 in federal money from Cook County to construct its first green alley, located between Ferdinand and Beloit avenues, Jackson Boulevard to Adams Street.

Amelio said the village would likely go after a grant in the neighborhood of $150,000-$200,000 for such a project.

Another possibility would be to seek funding for a program to disconnect residents’ downspouts, and have them discharge on the ground, rather than go straight into the sewer, Amelio said, which would cost less than $75,000.

Creating rain gardens is another idea, but the village could end up taking any number of routes, as grant money from the IEPA is available for different types of projects. Regardless, Forest Park’s aim is to mitigate its flooding problem.

“The whole point is to [keep] water out of the sewer,” Amelio said.

Harris said he likes the idea of submitting multiple bids because it allows the village to “cover as much ground as possible.” 

Individual grants range from $15,000 to $3 million, according to the IEPA. But Amelio pointed out that applicants seeking bigger sums will likely not receive anything because the demand is so high – $3 million is over half the total amount available through the program.

The village would also have to match 15-25 percent of the project’s costs.

Harris said he suggested placing the projects within the village’s Brown Street Tax Increment Financing District (TIF). That way any matching money required as part of a grant could be taken from the TIF fund.

The proposals are due by Dec. 15, and Maggie Carson, a spokesperson for IEPA, said the grants, which come as reimbursements, would likely be announced some time in the spring, next year.

“It’s silly for the village not to be pursuing every avenue possible,” Harris said. “We need to be looking at every avenue – small-, big- and medium-sized fixes.”

He said the village should be finished with its proposals some time in the next few weeks.