Expand or expire?

By on November 13, 2010

updated Nov. 24, 2010 at 8:36 a.m.
Maple Park ponders wastewater plant expansion project
by Lynn Meredith
Maple Park—Maple Park has a situation: to find money to expand its wastewater treatment facilities or let the expansion permit expire.

A discharge permit issued by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) is set to expire Feb. 28, 2012. The permit, issued in February 2007, allows the village to expand its treatment facilities and build a new plant.

The original plan called for a new plant that would pump 1 million gallons of water a day and serve the two subdivisions, John Clare and Grand Pointe Homes, which were annexed into the village, and other developments waiting annexation. But times have changed, and only John Clare remains. That vision of a treatment plant is no longer realistic.

“We are trying to position where we are going before the permit expires,” Village President Kathy Curtis said. “We have one developer, with the other developers hanging tight in the market. They will eventually want to build out.”

The problem is that the existing plant does not have the capacity to cover potentially six new developments. Although no one is building now, the farmland has been sold to the developers.

The other problem is that if the village lets the discharge permit expire, it will have lost all of the investment that developers put into getting it in the first place.

“The plant is at a standstill,” Curtis said. “We can’t let it expire, or we will lose the expensive permit which developers paid for.”

Dave Johnson of John Clare believes the village is wise to hang on to the permit, given that the developer group invested close to $1 million in the project since its inception in 2004.

“We were starting from scratch and spent a considerable amount of money. We paid for $1 million of work that produced benefit to the village,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that developers, primarily John Clare and now-defunct Grand Pointe Homes, spent $450,000 in the initial phases. They paid fees to establish Maple Park’s Fiscal Planning Area. This plan calls for the village to define existing boundaries and those into the future, about a 20-year timeline. They also paid for a flood plain study and the categorizing of the village’s infrastructure.

Another $450,000 was spent on analyzing future infrastructure needs, such as designing the sewer plant, wells and water towers, conducting engineering studies to size water and sewer lines, and covering attorney fees for both the village and the developers.

“It would take years to generate that permit again,” Johnson said. “It’s an extremely valuable asset.”

Another complication with letting the permit expire is that the IEPA can then inspect the existing plant. If it finds violations, it can require upgrades and even impose penalties that the village would have to finance.

“We’re trying to protect the current homeowners. If violations to the existing plant ever become too costly, the village would have to recover the expense through user fees. However, this would be just to improve the treatment efficiency of the existing capacity,” Curtis said. “That’s the wild card. It could be something or it could be nothing.”

The village has not yet identified revenue streams to pay back a loan they have pre-approved by the IEPA. Curtis said that none of the new developers have volunteered to assist with the expansion. The Public Relations and Development Committee is looking for ways to design a plant in phases, so that as new development comes in, further expansion can take place.

“It’s still costly, but not like building a plant all at once. We could build one to take care of existing needs and John Clare subdivisions, and add in as development comes,” Curtis said. “The existing plant has reserved capacity for the existing town and approved developments with the exception of John Clare. Plant expansion is needed to serve the John Clare project. And we can have no new development without a new plant.”

The Elburn Herald reported an incorrect date in a story on page 7A of the Nov. 11 edition (“Expand or expire?”). The discharge permit issued by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to the village of Maple Park is set to expire in Feb. 2012. It was originally listed in the story as Feb. 28, 2010.
The Elburn Herald regrets the error.
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Ryan Wells, Editor
123 N. Main St., Elburn, IL 60119
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