Committee urges village to buy stormwater-affected properties

RANTOUL — The Rantoul storm drainage committee is recommending the village of Rantoul undertake negotiations with the owners of three stormwater-affected properties on the community’s northeast side to possibly clear the way for creation of a retention pond.

Meeting last week, the committee encouraged the village board to take action to alleviate the problem that has plagued Illinois Drive (Illinois Circle) for decades, according to committee member John Reale, a former village water and wastewater superintendent.

“Let’s get them tore down,” committee Chairman Ron Loy said of three houses, at least one of which has black mold in it from water problems.

He said hopefully the village will then follow through with the digging of some type of retention pond to hold all of the stormwater that floods that area, much of which comes from nearby Northview Elementary.

Loy and fellow committee members Joe Bolser and Reale said they hope the Rantoul City Schools district will help foot the bill.

“I (wouldn’t) want to go home every night to mold in my basement ... and in my crawl space,” Loy said. “I think it’s time we make a recommendation to the board.”

The properties are owned by Michael Ziegler at 320 Illinois Drive, Dale and Debra Sleigh at 324 Illinois Drive and Charles and Kay Cain at 328 Illinois Drive.

The village has received appraisals for all three properties, but the amounts were not released at the meeting.

Reale asked if Rantoul City Schools is willing to help with the cost. He was told the village has met with school officials, and RCS is waiting to see how the village proceeds.

Said Greg Hazel, Rantoul public works director: “I think they’re kind of watching what the village, the committee, what direction we go. There’s a couple different ways of managing the stormwater from the school and the neighborhood and the subdivision.”

Reale encouraged both parties to move forward.

“If you get taken to court on this, you’ll both pay,” Reale said.

He said Illinois drainage laws indicate that the property owner from which the stormwater runs off is liable.  

Reale said the village has only come around more aggressively dealing with stormwater issues in recent decades. Before that, there was no inspections department, and there were no ordinances “of any type as far as building.”

Reale said he can remember when the property was a corn field, and it has always suffered from flooding because of the topography. He said the school district just made it worse by increasing the height of the Northview grounds by “4 to 5 feet.”

“If these people want to take this to court, they’d win, and then you’d be paying for that too,” Reale said.

He encouraged the village to buy the properties if the appraisals are fair.

“It gets you out of a whole mess of trouble in the future,” he said.

The village has had flooding issues in various areas of the community over the years. One problem was remediated by the creation of the Maplewood retention pond.

Something similar — although likely on a far-smaller scale — might be required on Illinois Circle.

Bolser said the school district should “be responsible for at least half of this project.”

“We all have to step up and say, ‘OK, it’s time to pay the piper,’” Bolser said.

Loy said the village has undertaken a number of stormwater projects in the last couple of decades and said the storm sewers in many areas of the community are not built to handle current problems.

Hazel said the village needs to take the situation “a step at a time and secure the properties first” before deciding how to proceed.

A couple of proposals have been broached, including a million dollar project to alleviate stormwater problems for only a part of Illinois Circle, and a $2.3 million project that would impact a larger number of properties.

Hazel said Rantoul is not unique in having a system that was build decades ago that is inadequate.  

He said the village’s portion of the cost will likely be paid from stormwater fees.

Debbie Sleigh told the committee the water problem does not go away when winter arrives. She said rain and snow during the previous weekend caused problems.

“It wasn’t a downpour, but it’s still water, and now it’s ice. Now we have to deal with it,” she said. “It’s not just occasional. It’s all the time.”

The Sleighs have three sump pumps in their backyard to move stormwater away from their house.

Dale Sleigh said after the meeting there have been times when they have had to be out in their yard from sundown to sunup to keep the sump pump area free of debris during heavy rains.

Debbie Sleigh said it is an emotionally exhausting situation for them.

Village Comptroller Pat Chamberlin said 24 people came in to pay during the village’s recent amnesty period in which interest and stormwater fees were waived, resulting in payment of $11,311.

“It was not as successful as I would have liked, but at least it was a start,” Chamberlin said.

There is now $264,443 in unpaid stormwater fees.

Chamberlin said the village is looking to be part of a state program in which state-owed money to individuals who are in arrears on village fees will see that money instead go to the village.

She said that can’t be done for properties on which the village has filed a lien, but the village could opt to withdraw such liens if the money owed is large enough.

She said there is a balance of about $119,000 in the stormwater fund.

Chamberlin said the village has two stormwater-related bond issues out.

A total of $186,000 must be repaid to the electric fund and about $167,000 in bonds taken out in 2015-16. There are also fiscal transfers to the corporate fund and public works administration.

Loy reminded residents to keep leaves out of the gutters and streets to help prevent stormwater problems.

“Those leaves pile up and get in the storm drains, and you get a couple of sticks down there, and the next thing you know it, you’ve got a dam.”

Loy encouraged people who see a manhole backing up to call the village. He said he has seen a number of leaves in curbs around town.


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