Down the drain?
Sugar Grove ends Mallard Point drainage negotiations
by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—The solution to the drainage problems in the Mallard Point and Rolling Oaks subdivisions in Sugar Grove just became more complex.
Two months after the Village Board approved four resolutions for improvements and an extension of the drainage system in the two subdivisions, Village President Sean Michels announced on Jan. 4 that the village was walking away from a deal with the Rob Roy Drainage District No. 2 and three land owners (one of which is the family of Sugar Grove Police Chief Brad Sauer) to allow for the installation of a pipe—18 inches in diameter and 8,800 feet long—that would convey water from the subdivisions to the Drainage District ditch located near Jericho Road and Route 30.
The landowners were involved in the deal because the pipe would have to travel through their property to reach the Drainage District’s concrete ditch. The Sauer family owns the largest of the three properties.
The cost of the project was estimated at $1.7 million, with Kane County slated to kick in $171,000 toward that cost. The Drainage District, during the last 17 months, has spent in excess of $100,000 in engineering and legal fees related to the project, according to Drainage District President Mike Fagel.
“The position of the village is that we’ve reached the end of our negotiations. We negotiated with the Sauers and the Rob Roy Drainage District and could not come to terms,” Michels said. “Therefore, the village is moving on to look for other alternatives to rectify the situation and help out the residents with their drainage issue.”
Michels, who has been village president since 1999, cited control of drain tile (after installation), price of easement and wetlands as reasons why the village chose to end negotiations.
“The big (reasons) are (with) the Sauers. With Rob Roy, it was the permitting process and some of the fees that they were requesting,” he said. “We had been negotiating since May with Rob Roy and since August with the Sauers, and in late December when we received final proposals (from them), that was when the village made the decision to move in another direction.”
According to Fagel, the Drainage District on Dec. 26 agreed to waive the $18,000 connection fee. The district maintained that the village should pay for engineering costs, with a $10,000 cap.
“The permit process protects all of us, but we do not want to stand in the way of this project,” Fagel said.
Mallard Point resident Jim Stone spoke during public comment at the Village Board meeting on Jan. 17, stating his frustration over the fact that the village didn’t send out a hard-copy letter to notify residents of its intention to cease negotiations with the Sauer family and the Drainage District. Instead, the village sent out e-mails to Mallard Point residents who had signed up to receive electronic notices from the village.
Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger said during the meeting that the e-mail-only notification was “maybe an oversight.”
“The fact that they pulled out of the agreement … that’s just pathetic,” Stone later said. “My basement is in horrible shape (because of flooding), and so are a lot of other basements in this subdivision.”
Mallard Point drainage concerns
documented 20 years ago
A letter from attorney Bruce A. Brown, representing Rob Roy Drainage District, to attorney Leonard Stoecker, dated July 21, 1992, states, “The drainage district is obviously concerned that the proposed development could unduly burden the downstream landowners and the drainage district system. In view with past contracts with this developer, we are also concerned that this project may be an ‘on again, off again’ proposition.
Brown urged the Village Board to reconsider their position on the project in light of the “drainage problems in (the) plan.”
A document from former village engineer/administrator Joe Wywrot to the Plan Commission, dated Feb. 10, 1995, states, “Based on wetland requirements, a number of lots in Mallard Point “are not buildable. The plat should indicate that the wetland in the area is to be mitigated if that is (the) intention.”
According to Fagel, developers in 1993 installed Mallard Point Unit 1 detention pond without the inclusion of a bypass pipe to reconnect a damaged drain tile at the location. A document dated April 7, 1998, from then-Village Engineer Brian L. Schiber states, “As a reminder, we are still awaiting the completion of the drain tile replacement around the wetlands.”
So, why wasn’t the bypass tile ever installed? According to Sugar Grove Township Supervisor Dan Nagel, an effort to install the pipe resulted in workers digging into running sand, which halted the project for good.
Kane County take
facilitator role in talks
In spring 2009 Kane County began serving as facilitator among all three negotiating sides in the deal to fix the drainage issue once and for all. Board representative Drew Frasz (Dist. 26-Elburn), the point man during these talks, said the board has a relationship with both the village and Drainage District, and wants to see the flooding issue through to the end.
“(The negotiations) have been a continual forward movement in a positive direction. It’s been slower than I would’ve liked to see it, but that’s just the necessity of getting all the facts down and engineering right,” he said. “Our goal was to communicate with all parties, find out what’s important to them and what they can bend on.”
Frasz said the 800-pound gorilla in the room during negotiations was the fact that, even if the three sides found a solution to the drainage issue, there wasn’t a funding mechanism to make it happen. Kane County then acquired a stimulus fund (otherwise known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act) of approximately $16,800,000 in fall 2009.
“Chairman (Karen) McConnaughay proposed that we make this funding available to any governmental agency in Kane County, to be used on drainage- and water-related projects,” Frasz said. “The Mallard Point issue was the impetus for that idea and, of course, the prime project that we wanted to fund with that money.”
Fagel said Kane County has been a true partner to the Drainage District in these negotiations.
“The County Board Chair, County Board member Drew Frasz and the Water Resources department have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us in the investigation, solution, financing and potential resolution (of the drainage issue),” he said.
As part of the deal, the Drainage District was slated to receive a $330,000 loan out of recovery bonds from the county.
“Those bonds have to be paid back, but it’s long term, low interest,” Frasz said.
If the drainage project is completed, Mallard Point residents will pay 50 percent of the project’s cost over 20 years.
The Sauer family was set to receive $275,000 from the village for the easement. Frasz said that during the negotiations, the village did not express a concern with the dollar amount.
According to Frasz, Sauer himself owns a small parcel of wetland on the north end of his family’s property and is willing to donate that land to the village as part of the easement deal.
Sauer said that he did not want to directly comment on the negotiations.
Letters from the Sauer family and Rob Roy Drainage District, including a cover letter from Kane County, were delivered to Village Hall on Tuesday. All three letters urged the village to reconsider its stance and re-enter negotiations with the other two sides.
“It’s entirely up to the village to decide if they want to move forward (with negotiations). As far as (Kane) County’s position, I’ve made it clear all along that the county is not ready or willing to give up on this project or the residents, whether they are in the municipality or in the unincorporated areas,” Frasz said. “We want to get the project done and we want to get it done this year. It’s really the village’s call … we ask them to look at the current situation, which is greatly improved, and reconsider jumping back into this thing with both feet.”