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Elmhurst committee proposes new storm sewer extension program

ELMHURST – The Public Works and Buildings Committee agreed Monday to make changes to the proposed rear yard drain policy that would encourage more alternative stormwater management.

Anyone implementing alternate stormwater management to remedy a qualifying stormwater issue could apply for a 50 percent cost-sharing program up to $1,500. The committee chose to increase the amount from the previous policy's $1,000 limit to encourage more permanent solutions to stormwater management.

Alternate solutions include dry-wells, permeable pavers or a Coltec system that would reduce the amount of water entering the city's storm sewer. Rain gardens are included even though they're somewhat less permanent because they require regular maintenance like weeding to ensure they remain effective.

"They're not going to put [a rain garden] in one year and let it go to heck the next year," said Chris Healy, committee vice chairman and Fifth Ward alderman.

Healy explained the $1,500 reimbursement won't cover half the cost of a rain garden so someone who chooses that solution will be committing financially and more likely to maintain it.

The new rear yard drain, which is also being called the storm sewer extension program would set criteria under which homeowners could connect their sump pumps, downspouts or yard drains to the city storm sewer.

The new proposed policy would require all requests for connections to follow decision trees to determine if redirections or overland discharge options are viable before allowing direct connections. Issues that threaten public safety or damage a homeowner's or neighbor's property would qualify to apply for 50 percent reimbursement up to $1,000 without implementing alternative stormwater management.

The committee's discussion revolved around whether cost sharing should extend to quality-of-life issues that don't cause public safety dangers or structural damage.

Committee chairman and Sixth Ward alderman Jim Kennedy initially supported the cost-sharing program for "nuisance flooding" or situations that don't directly threaten structural damage or public safety.

"I think that it's a small price for us to pay to participate at this level compared to the detriment of people illegally connecting into the sanitary system," Kennedy said.

Ultimately the committee agreed that such quality-of-life issues, like yard ponding, that do not threaten a structure would not qualify for cost sharing. Those residents, however, would not have to pay permit fees, a stormwater tap fee or street patch cost, and city engineering assistance would be provided free. This would create a cost savings to the homeowner of about $1,250, according to city staff. All other projects that do qualify for cost sharing would also get these benefits.

"I still don't like quality of life [issues] being hooked up to the storm sewer, but I think that's middle ground," said Michael Bram, committee member and Third Ward alderman.

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