Let’s start by agreeing that what’s not done is not done. Despite knowing for 20 years that Forest Park’s sewer system was obsolete, despite having a plan that told us this clearly, and even as we have watched 100-year-storms become the new 10-year-storm norm, we know that the village has done little but apply patches to its failing system.
That’s water under the bridge, so to speak.
We are focused now on three things:
- The village-commissioned report on flooding and the options to significantly upgrade the system over the years ahead.
- The calm reaction of citizens as they begin to absorb the scope and the cost of what is coming.
- The plans of the full village council to study this report, assess the options it presents and to create a complex response that sets priorities and lays out what are bound to be limited and painful funding mechanisms.
This comprehensive report from Christopher Burke Engineering makes plain that Forest Park starts in on the largest infrastructure project this town has ever contemplated from a very deep hole. We are not sure if we are startled or frustrated by the news in the report that the current sewer system cannot handle even the most average 1-year summer storm without some level of flooding in the village.
We are impressed by this report. The geographic segmentation it suggests — North, Central and South — is necessary in addressing the wide scope of the problem and by the options of work it recommends and the specific relief each level of spending might bring. For instance, on the north side of town, the report recommends converting the current combined sewer system into a separated system under a stretch of the Prairie Path. One option would cost $12.6 million and reduce flooding by a set percentage. A second option adds nearly $5 million to the cost but returns only a small additional reduction in flooding. That’s good information — actionable by a thoughtful village council.
While there has been political chatter in recent years that Forest Park residents weren’t capable of hearing the bad news about flooding and the inevitably direct cost to them as taxpayers, we are seeing none of that. When your basement repeatedly floods, the average person is looking to government for solutions and recognizes that, especially today with the feds and state tied in political knots, the fix is going to have to be largely local.
People just want their basements dry.
Now we need to hear from Mayor Tony Calderone, Village Administrator Tim Gillian and the four commissioners about next steps. Specific, practical next steps. What are the priorities? What is the timeline? When is the referendum for a bond issue?
The clouds are gathering.
Let’s get to it.