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Village of Westmont approves stormwater utility question for April election

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 1:55 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 1:59 p.m. CDT

WESTMONT – The Westmont Village Board approved an ordinance that will add a stormwater utility question to the April 7 election ballot.

At Thursday’s Westmont Village Board meeting, trustees unanimously approved the agenda item, paving the way for the DuPage County Election Commission to draft and add a stormwater utility referendum question to the April 7 ballot.

Initially, the board considered adding the stormwater question to the November ballot, but ultimately decided that a lack of public engagement signaled a need for more educational opportunities.

As a result, Westmont officials let the Aug. 4 deadline to file a referendum question with the DuPage County Election commission pass.

“The board feels that this is too important of an issue to not make sure that we get the word out to residents prior to moving forward with this initiative,” Trustee Steve Nero said. “While we have been discussing this issue in depth since the April 2013 historic flooding incident in northeast Illinois, we feel that more outreach is needed before residents fully understand the impact and the value of creating a stormwater utility.”

“We have had a public hearing, but it was not that well attended and I think the more education we can give, the better,” Trustee Sue Senicka said.

Trustee Harold Barry pointed out that the upcoming winter could impact the residents' sentiments regarding a stormwater utility. If a lot of snow and rain occurs this winter, the public would be more inclined to approve a stormwater utility, he said.

Village officials have echoed that they will do everything in their power to continue to educate the residents while remaining neither for nor against the issue, as they cannot legally lobby for a referendum’s approval.

During the week of July 20, the Village of Westmont created and uploaded a 21-minute video explaining the stormwater fee. The video will remain on the village website and social media channels.

A stormwater utility would directly charge property owners to pay for stormwater sewer projects. Previously, those projects — such as replacing a stormwater detention basin — were funded by the village through taxes.

The proposed projects would cost about $1.6 million annually, and would be funded with a monthly stormwater utility fee levied on all property owners – including property owning nonprofits, which are exempt from property taxes.

Although specific costs to homeowners cannot be settled until the stormwater fee is approved, a stormwater stakeholder group proposed a fee that is based on the size of a parcel of property and ranges from $6.72 per month to $12.48 per month.

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