By Igor Studenkov | For the Bugle
The long-awaited Cleveland relief sewer project, which is expected to reduce flooding in eastern Niles, has been completed five months ahead of schedule.
To mark the occasion, officials from the Village of Niles and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), as well as members of the Niles Stormwater Commission, gathered at the Grennan Heights Park fieldhouse on March 29. They thanked the village staff and the contractors for their hard work, and touted the project as great example of inter-agency cooperation. And because there was no way to cut a ribbon on something that was located underground, the officials marked the occasion with a ceremonial throwing away of the mops.
The project was the last of the Tier 1 stormwater mitigation projects, designed to address the most pressing flood issues within Niles. It will collect water from Grennan Heights and other areas on the east side of the village and deposit the water into the Chicago River. The main sewage pipe has been placed near the intersection of Main Street and Oketo Avenue and continues along Monroe Avenue until it reaches Cleveland Street. It then continues along Cleveland Street until it reaches the Cook County Forest Preserve, where it goes into the river.
The project also added new pipes along Odell, Octavia, Oconto and Harlem avenues, as well as Waukegan Road and Kenney Street, to feed into the main pipe.
According to the Village of Niles fact sheet, the project cost $9.1 million, with $2 million coming from MWRD. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Revolving Loan Fund helped cover the rest.
The village held a groundbreaking ceremony on May 25, 2016, at the same site as the March 29 ceremony. While the original plans called for an outdoor ceremony, pouring rain forced the attendees inside. This time around, the rain held off until the festivities wrapped up. Nonetheless, the ceremony began inside the fieldhouse, with officials giving speeches.
Fred Braun, the street superintendent for the Village of Niles Department of Public Services, was the first one to speak. He said that he’s been working for the village for about 20 years, and he’s gotten plenty of calls about flooding in eastern Niles.
“Everybody who worked [with the department] – we know this are is typically the most flooded area,” he said. “It makes me happy to know that’s a thing of the past.”
Braun thanked the project contractor, Bolder Construction, for getting it finished ahead of schedule. He also thanked the Stormwater Commission for doing their part in figuring out what the Tier 1 projects would be.
Mariyanna Spyropoulos, president of MWRD, said she was happy to see the project completed.
“[I’m happy], effectively, to say goodbye to flooding for residents of Niles,” she said.
Spyropoulos added that flooding is a district-wide issue for MWRD, and addressing it has been a complicated process – which is why she was happy that Niles did its part to reduce flooding.
“While we are working very hard to solve [the issue], it’s encouraging to see a village come up with an effective of a plan as the Village of Niles,” she said.
Mayor Andrew Przybylo said he was impressed that the project was finished ahead of schedule, giving credit to Boulder Construction for making it possible.
“Who would have thought 10 months ago that we would all be together here, not even April, already celebrating the successful completion of the Cleveland sewer project?” he said. “Many of the residents of Grennan Heights and Evergreen Estates can sleep more soundly at night knowing that a new stormwater system is providing improved protection.”
Przybylo said that about 140 homes will see “reduced flood risk, if not outright elimination.” He also noted that the project did more then just reduce flooring. The village used the digging necessary for construction as an opportunity to fix a gas main, and it built a bike/walking trail connection to Cook County Forest Preserve’s North Branch trail.
Trustee Joe LoVerde, the Stormwater Commission chair and an enthusiastic supporter of village flood mitigation projects, wasn’t at the ceremony in person, but Przybylo read his prepared remarks on his behalf. In them, the trustee said that he appreciated all the work that has been done since Przybylo’s predecessor, Robert Callero, for forming the Stormwater Commission. LoVerde thanked Mary Anderson, the Niles Public Works Director, as well as village engineers. He said that he visited the construction site multiple times, and he was impressed with Boulder workers as well, mentioning that they helped some residents carry groceries and generally tried to ensure that their work was as unobstructive as possible.
“I look forward to the being part of exciting new opportunities in our community,” the statement read.
With the Tier 1 projects now complete, the village is beginning to work on Tier II projects. Village manager Steve Vinezeano told the reporters that one project is set – a stormwater detention reservoir under the land the village acquired near Golf Mill Shopping Center. As previously reported by the Bugle, the village hopes to build a park on top of it – but, as Vinezeano told the reporters, the details would need to be worked out with the Niles Park District.
As for the other projects, Vinezeano told the reporters that the Stormwater Commission is currently evaluating its options. Whichever projects would get the highest “grade” would go forward.