Forest Park is stuck in the middle of the pack as towns across Illinois, and the nation, finally face strict and actual state and federal deadlines for replacing lead service water lines. 

The task is gargantuan whether talking about a small town like Forest Park or nationwide. To ensure safe water supplies, you cannot deliver that water through lead pipes. But replacing those pipes is exceptionally costly and a burden that must fall on both local municipalities and, in some form, on homeowners and commercial property owners. 

If your town is predominantly lower income, then there may be state and federal grants available. Forest Park did not qualify for that funding, Sal Stella, the village’s public works director, told the village council recently. Or if you live in a largely affluent town, it is possible the municipality can heavily subsidize the cost. Neighboring River Forest, for example, has a program in which it will pay up to $7,500 of the cost of replacing both the village portion of the piping and the homeowner’s segment of lead. Forest Park does not have that kind of cash or cash flow.

So instead, with a deadline coming for providing the state with a full inventory of the work to be done in the years ahead, Forest Park has now applied to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for an $8 million loan to get this project underway. Recognize this is a low-interest loan. Will have to be repaid. And the estimated full cost of removing these lead lines in Forest Park is $25 million between now and the ultimate deadline, which is 17 years hence. The village is required to replace a minimum of 6% of the lines each year.

There is no arguing that this work must be done as an essential public health measure. There is seemingly not an alternative replacement method that costs less than many thousands of dollars per line. 

Hopefully Forest Park will get the low-interest loan. Then officials will have to sort out who will pay the freight on repaying that loan.

Doc Ryan’s demise

We are seemingly counting down the days to the closure of Doc Ryan’s, one of Madison Street’s iconic drinking spots. March 31 remains the announced closing date although the intended future use of the property as a cannabis dispensary is now cloudy.

Mayor Rory Hoskins, a leading advocate of pot-related tax revenues, confirmed the deal is off but said nothing as to the reason why. The simultaneous village approval of a second dispensary nearby does come to mind though.

Drying up local bar venues remains the goal of village hall. So the Doc’s license evaporating seems assured. What comes next at this central location on Madison remains to be seen.