'It's a relief for all of us.' Board approves purchase of flood-prone properties

These three homes in the 300 block of Illinois Drive will be purchased by the village of Rantoul. They will be razed, and a detention pond will be developed to handle floodwater in the area.

RANTOUL — Debbie Sleigh sat in the back of the Rantoul Village Board meeting room and breathed a sigh of relief.

The years of frustration she, her husband and the owners of two neighboring properties — including her parents next door — is nearing an end.

“It’s a big weight off of everybody’s shoulders,” she said. “It’s been a big fight for a long time.”

Sleigh and her husband, Dale, won’t have to keep a constant check on the weather forecast and the radar map. No more long nights dealing with flooding onto their property that has caused black mold in their home.

They will be moving to a new home where they won’t have to be afraid of the health effects for their 5-month-old granddaughter, who now will be able to come over and visit.

The village board agreed to a deal for the village to buy the three houses on Illinois Drive for a total of $285,000. The houses will be demolished and the property turned into a detention pond to handle the massive amounts of stormwater that floods the area during heavy rains.

Purchase price is $120,000 for the Sleighs’ house; $100,000 for the home of her parents, Charles and Elaine Cain; and $65,000 for the home of Michael Ziegler.

Debbie Sleigh has been the most vocal about getting relief from the flooding, and she was the only one of the neighborhood residents who attended the village board meeting.

ALSO A NEIGHBORHOOD BENEFIT

She said she is glad not only for the homeowners but also for the neighborhood as a whole.

“It will be really helpful for (residents in the area). I didn’t want to (go) and still leave them with a problem.”

The problem was so bad that the Sleighs had installed three sump pumps in their backyard to handle the stormwater, much of which came from the grounds of Northview Elementary to the west. It was so bad that they would block off the street in front of their home as water reached up to their knees.

Just like the anxious moments dealing with floods, the negotiation process had its nervous moments. But things calmed down.

“It seemed to go really smoothly when Scott showed up,” she said of Scott Eisenhauer, who recently took the reins as village administrator.

Eisenhauer estimated there were “10 formal communications” between the two sides to reach an agreement.

“The goal the mayor established from the beginning of this process was to ensure the end result was fair to both the property owners and the taxpayers,” Eisenhauer said. “While I certainly won’t speak for the property owners, we believed that what was reached was fair and equitable to all sides.”

He said placing a detention pond on that land was the most cost-effective means of solving the flooding problem.

Said Debbie Sleigh: “It’s fair. We didn’t want to make money off this. This wasn’t the reason we were doing this. But I think it worked out for everybody — the taxpayers, us, the school. It’s a relief for all of us.”

She said she and her husband have begun looking for another home in Rantoul, while her parents have already found a place.

Eisenhauer said acquisition of the property is just part of the cost of the entire stormwater management project. He said it has been not only a source of concern for the residents of the area but also school officials.

Eisenhauer said the village studied two locations for the detention pond, but a site on school grounds was deemed not workable. Negotiations for the price of the homes were based on appraisals that the owners had done and property values from the last five years.

“Once we determine the cost of the whole project and how much work will be done on and around the school to aid in resolving some of their stormwater management problems, we will approach the (Rantoul City Schools) district for participation in the total project," Eisenhauer said.

OTHER BUSINESS

The board also:

• Approved recommendations from the EDA and microloan committees, respectively, to approve issuance of a $350,000 loan to Vijay Patel and a $30,000 loan to Jennifer Kitchen. The Patel vote was 5-1 with Trustee Hank Gamel voting “no.” The other vote was unanimous. Patel will use the $350,000 as part of a $1.3 million project to buy and remodel the Maple Grove shopping plaza and repair the parking lot. He will pay 4 percent interest for 10 years. Eisenhauer said the rest of the money will come from at least one other outside loan and possibly Patel's own money. Kitchen will use her loan money to buy and operate Hap-E-Dog Bath Haus.

• Authorized the purchase of utility cable and materials from Anixter for $59,191.

• Approved an engineering agreement with Burns & McDonnell for $70,225 to place animal-deterrent fencing at Rantoul Airport.

• Authorized the purchase of pump station equipment from several vendors for $114,838 for the Rantoul Foods pork processing facility.

• Approved an engineering agreement with Hutchison Engineering not to exceed $75,000 for the resurfacing of Maplewood Drive.

• Approved an ordinance authorizing the sale of personal property owned by the village (scrap metal and scrap wire).

• Approved the sale of the building at 1112 Enterprise Drive to Lexycan LLC, headed by Yudong “Mark” Xu, a dentist at Angel Smiles dental clinic.

• Approved a resolution for improvement of 1.41 miles of Maplewood Drive for $75,000.

• Heard from Loise Haines, who thanked trustees (and Eisenahuer who served as master of ceremonies) who attended the previous weekend’s talent show at Rantoul Township High School. She said the event “raised a lot of funds” that will help with the purchase of flags for a portion of Sangamon Avenue.

• Heard from Kristian Hopkins, director of Big Brothers Big Sisters serving Rantoul and Ford County. Hopkins said a golf fundraiser will be held June 21 at Lake of the Woods Golf Course for $500 per team or $125 per person. Those interested can sign up online or by contacting him. He also said BBBS continues to need mentors, especially males.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com