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Elmhurst City Council set to suspend rear yard drain program

ELMHURST – The City Council approved a report to suspend new applications to the city's rear yard drain cost-sharing program while the Public Works and Buildings Committee reviews the program.

The council voted 9 to 5 at Monday's meeting.

"This is not saying that we are terminating the program at this time," committee member Michael Bram said. "This is not saying that we're doing any modifications to this program, and it is not saying that we are going to keep the program. That evaluation needs to be done."

The program allows residents to apply for a reimbursement from the city for 50 percent of the cost of installing a yard drain and connecting sump pumps or downspouts to the storm sewer up to $1,000.

Suspending the program will allow any current applicants to continue with the program, but new applicants won't be considered until the committee completes its review of the program. Residents will still be allowed to install rear yard drains or connect downspouts and sump pumps to the storm sewer with the proper city permits, but at their own cost.

Committee Chairman Jim Kennedy did not want to suspend the program, but explained that, either way, the committee plans to evaluate the program and present any modifications to the the council by mid-March.

Vice Chairman Chris Healy also argued not to suspend the policy. He said it has been in place for many years and hesitated to suspend what he considered a good policy.

"We can say, 'Well, we did something [about stormwater],'" Healy said. "I won't feel that way."

While Healy didn't agree with suspending the program to send a message that the city is taking action on stormwater management, committee member Michael Bram said that was the point.

"It sends a message to the residents of Elmhurst, 'Yes, we heard your concerns,'" Bram said.

It was a message three Elmhurst residents who live near Pine Street wanted to hear. They supported suspending and even completely eliminating the program during the public forum portion of Monday's meeting.

Those residents explained that rear yard drains may help homeowners who have water pool in their yards, but when the city experiences a storm, those same drains over tax the storm sewer and contribute to what some residents called "catastrophic flooding" in their homes.

"I think it's appropriate to suspend a program that's main reason for creation is for nuisance flooding," Bram said.

First Ward Alderman Marti Deuter pointed out that suspending the program while the committee continues to evaluate it does not mean the council is opposed to the program.

"I don't think a vote for this means we should not be supporting rear yard drains," Deuter said.

The date for a final vote has not been announced, but it won't come until after the new year.


How they voted

To temporarily suspend the cost-sharing program:

Ayes: Michael Honquest, Mark Mulliner, Diane Gutenkauf, Marti Deuter, Dannee Polomsky, Michael Bram, Stephen Hipskind, Kevin York and Scott Levin.

Nays: Jim Kennedy, Chris Healy, Patrick Wagner, Bob Dunn and Norman Leader


By the numbers

Homes that have used the cost-sharing program in the last 12 months:

16: Completed

1: Pending construction

12: Outstanding estimates

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