By Carol Kania Morency
One question residents ask repeatedly when city of Elmhurst representatives discuss their multimillion-dollar plans for stormwater remediation is, "Where will you get the money?"
On Monday, aldermen looked at funding for this and other projects as they started mapping out a five-year capital plan.
Many of Elmhurst's major projects in the coming years will be financed with borrowed money, and projects in the capital plan won't rely solely on taxpayer dollars if anticipated grant funding comes through.
The council agreed Monday to refinance bonds originally issued in 2003. To take advantage of a lower interest rate—down to 1.86 percent from 3.95 percent—the city plans to refinance $7.42 million in existing debt and add $2.25 million to fund stormwater projects.
These projects are looming large over the next five years, and getting the funds for them is not the only work that needs to be completed before the projects can begin. Last week, representatives from the city and Christopher Burke Engineering visited the Elmhurst Park Board to detail their plans for storing stormwater on park properties. The city made a presentation to the District 205 School Board earlier this summer, explaining how three District 205 properties would be needed for stormwater remediation.
On Monday, City Manager Jim Grabowski told the council that staff will be submitting preliminary applications for about $8 million in Illinois Emergency Management Agency grants made available for stormwater projects after parts of DuPage County were declared disaster areas last spring. Grabowski stressed that even though they are applying for the grants, they are in no way assuming the school and park boards will decide to allow the city to dredge their land for stormwater detention.
“We are not presuming anything,” he said. “But we would be remiss in not applying.”
The city’s five-year plan includes $10.7 million for the dredging projects, although the final cost could be much more once park amenities, like soccer fields, seating areas and parking, are added back in.
The city also plans to spend $8.4 million to increase stormwater flow out of the flood-plagued southwest portion of the city by installing larger pipes and a detention tank at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Grabowski said the city’s stormwater consultant, RJN Group, will present updated details on this plan in the coming weeks.
Another grant application likely will revive a debate over the construction of an underpass for the Prairie Path at York Road. Staff learned earlier this year the city is eligible for a $1.7 million grant through the state’s Surface Transportation Program. Next year’s budget includes $150,000 for preliminary engineering and places the total cost of the underpass at $3 million.
The city also will apply one more time for an Illinois Green Infrastructure Grant to replace the crumbling City Hall parking lot with porous pavers. Without grant money for the $600,000 project, aldermen will have to consider the cheaper, traditional asphalt alternative.
Because the city is moving to a calendar-year budget, the 2014 spending plan will be delivered to the council in October. The levy review and adoption will take place in November and December.