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  • Writer's pictureTricia Babischkin

Our Village got Fired

This wasn't mentioned in any board meeting. I'm unaware if our CAO even shared with the board that effective in August, our long standing engineering firm of Baxter & Woodman terminated their relationship with our village. It appears that we have worked with Baxter & Woodman for about 20 years -- so it just seems odd that after that long, our engineering firm fired us.

To give a bit of history here, B&W was the firm that contracted the dam and spillway inspection of 2008. They were the firm that provided the much needed recommendations after the major flooding event of 2017 in the Gates. They have engineered our roads, provided feedback on house evaluations, attended many board meetings - providing project reviews in the board packets, stepped in when builders have pulled out; they even did work with Crystal Lake on the water issues -- sadly the village didn't seem to pursue that project. They've been praised by past boards, past village administrations, and even staff have enjoyed working with the team at Baxter & Woodman.

So, what brought them to the point where they said they could no longer work with our village? In their own words:

"does not value the engineering services". Wow. Read the whole letter here:

B&W Information
Download PDF • 63KB

but I've pulled out the key list:

East Side Sewer Project:

Full disclosure, I'm still researching the details of the east side sanitary sewer project -- so I can not comment on the recommendations here.

Hampshire Lane:

But wait, isn't Hampshire Lane is a crown jewel in Phil's list of successes? I think he's mentioned it at a majority of the last board meetings. In fact, I spent the first several months as I was digging into things in this village asking, "If Hampshire Lane is such a success, where's the roll out plan for the rest of the Gates? Why isn't that the solution to the water issues?" Well, it took this termination letter and the connected study to explain this to me.

It appears there are three essential problems that caused B&W to recommend against the inverted crown of Hampshire Lane:

1. Durability of the road itself. Apparently, if you put a sewer pipe in the center of the road, the asphalt can't be compacted the same, because you can't run the machine down the centerline. Additionally, that centerline is typically wet which over time could cause issues with the natural freeze thaw cycle.

2. Safety. Per B&W, the center of the road is harder to plow which can leave a section that is more prone to ice. This is overcome with laying additional "material" (or salt) down -- until the road begins to deteriorate and then it will be a balancing act between preventing ice and protecting the road surface.

3. Water capacity down the median on Broadway. So, adding a sewer down the center of Hampshire that feeds into the 24" storm sewer in the middle of Broadway adds yet another source of water into a pipe that has already been determined to be at capacity. In layman's terms, adding this is much like trying to fill a 5 gallon bucket with 10 gallons of water. Want to know where that water goes? The south side of Broadway.

Read the study in their own words here:

Hampshire Lane
Download PDF • 135KB

B&W's conclusion:

I've spoken to some residents in the area and the response to "how has it worked" has been a resounding "it seems to help near Lake Ave; but as you get closer to Broadway, the water still ponds in our yards." In fairness, they didn't report any out of the ordinary icing last winter, but I do know that in rain storms some residents have been known to put 2x4's down to try to direct the water toward the sewer. Does that feel like an amazing success or were 2x4's in the original plan to direct the water?

So, perhaps Hampshire Lane isn't the huge success that Phil claims. Perhaps the fact that the solution appears to semi-work and really can't be rolled out to other areas is something that our engineering firm should have told us? -- but they did. There's no simple solution to flooding in the Gates -- but there are things that need to be seriously considered and one of them appears to be the ability to move water down the Broadway median.

New Home Construction:

The final item listed in the termination letter is a house that is currently under construction. it appears that despite the village engineer saying that the lowest floor is not within the village code, our village is ok with allowing a home to be built with a basement 0.2' below Normal Water Level of the adjacent detention pond. I'm not an engineer; but what I read sounds like our village is approving a home to be built at high risk for a wet basement, right?

Reading this whole paragraph, I even see that B&W mentions that should this house be allowed to be built outside of the cited village code, that they should have the builder "provide a signed statement to be recorded with the property, that they acknowledge constructing a home with the lowest flood elevation less than 18 inches above the normal water level." I have to ask, if the firm is suggesting this acknowledgment be filed with the property, it seems like this would be a disclosure item for future homeowners -- would it also provide a liability to anyone who allowed this to be built? I don't know.

Red Leaf Circle
Download PDF • 121KB

So -- this is the end of a long term relationship with our village engineering company. I'm not sure what can be said about this. But I will quote a resident who said recently, "if the village engineer said it's good -- then I'm good." I'm wondering how he feels when the engineers fire our village? Guess they aren't good with it anymore.

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