By Kevin Beese
BELLWOOD | Many Bellwood homeowners could see a substantial drop in their mortgage payments in just a couple years.
That is because an estimated 800 Bellwood homes could get required flood insurance lifted from their mortgage after Addison Creek channel improvements and a detention pond in the village are completed.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District will be putting $116 million into projects in the Near West Suburbs to alleviate flooding.
“People in the flood plain are required to carry flood insurance as part of their mortgage,” said Bellwood Chief of Staff Pete Tsiolis. “That is a big burden. You are talking about $2,500 a year. It will be a huge savings. Plus, residents will get the relief from not knowing if there home is going to flood when it rains. That is an added benefit.”
The project is expected to take 800 of the 900 Bellwood homes currently in the flood plain out of the flood plain when the Federal Emergency Management Agency redraws its maps. Work is expected to begin this fall and be completed in 18-24 months. It is hoped all improvements are online by Fall 2019.
The Water Reclamation District is getting bids for demolition of the building at 2795 Washington Blvd., Bellwood, which will be used for a detention bond as part of the project.
The project will also benefits homes along the creek in Broadview, Northlake, Melrose Park, Stone Park and Westchester.
Tsiolis said improvements to make the creek flow more efficiently are also part of the project.
“The project will reduce flooding to approximately 2,200 properties along Addison Creek, providing approximately $116 million of flood-relief benefits for communities along Addison Creek,” said Catherine O’Connor, director of engineering for the Water Reclamation District.
Tsiolis said the project will be welcomed relief to many Bellwood residents.
“In my six or seven years here, one of the few questions the mayor gets is ‘What are you going to do about flooding? What are you going to do about flooding?’” Tsiolis said. “When some people heard about the detention pond, they asked ‘How quickly can you build it?’”
Tsiolis said for the Water Reclamation District to dedicate nearly $120 million out of a $600 million budget to the Near West Suburbs is a credit to the various mayors who continued to push for the improvements.
“The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District covers all of Cook County. For them to fund a project of this magnitude is something,” Tsiolis said. “It is a huge chunk of revenue to fix flooding. The fact that Bellwood and the other towns got this is a wonderful sign.”
Tsiolis noted that about 15 years ago, various area mayors formed the Addison Creek Restoration Commission in an effort to figure out ways to reduce flooding along the creek. The mayors went out and got grant money and hired Burke Engineering Co. to come up with solutions.
“(The mayors) saw the price tag and knew they couldn’t do it and they knew voters wouldn’t want to do it because some do not flood,” Tsiolis said.
The mayors began lobbying the Water Reclamation District, which eventually took on the project.
Initially, the detention pond was going to be created in Melrose Park, but the proposed site became an ongoing issue because of an existing business on the land and difficulties in acquiring the parcel. Bellwood stepped in and met with MWRD officials individually, pitching the Washington Boulevard site, which had a vacant industrial building on it.
“We convinced them with data that our site was better,” Tsiolis said.
The village’s chief of staff said Bellwood had shut the building down two years early due to code violations.
“We had issues with the landlord,” Tsiolis said. “We used all of this to the benefit of Bellwood.”
Tsiolis said that a few houses along the creek may need to be taken for the Addison Creek improvements. He said representatives of all six towns deserve credit for getting the project approved.
“The communities all got together and worked really hard,” Tsiolis said. “It is extremely important to get this done. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is doing a great service to the six towns. For them to put so much money into the western suburbs is pretty impressive.”