Wilmette, News

Trustees OK $1.9M upgrade to stormwater pumping station and get first look at 2023 budget with property tax reduction

The Village of Wilmette’s stormwater pumping station will undergo a nearly $2 million improvement after village trustees approved the project on Tuesday, Oct. 11.  

Addison-based Connelly Electric won the $1.93 million contract to replace two of the station’s components, including the switchgear (full text on page 141 here), a vital component to the facility at 4000 Lake Ave. that moves stormwater from west Wilmette into the north branch of the Chicago River.

The item was passed with the Village Board’s consent agenda and was not discussed Tuesday.

According to village documents, the pumping station was originally built in 1936 and the switchgear was last replaced in 1991. A typical switchgear reportedly has an effective life of 30 years, and it was due for an update in 2020.

Documents say the switchgear is housed in a location without climate control and officials must determine a better spot for the new equipment.

The other piece to replace is a variable frequency drive, which gives Village staff more control over one of the five water pumps. Installed in 2001, the drive has exceeded its useful life of 15-20 years, the documents say.

The project came in $432,000, or 28 percent, over the amount set in the 2022 budget. Village officials blame the increase on the “significantly” increased equipment prices over the last 12 months — a trend noted in municipal projects throughout the past couple of years. Labor and material costs have also escalated, according to the board’s agenda packet.

Village staff considered postponing the project for another year, but in a memo to the Village Board, Director of Water Management Nabil Quafisheh recommended moving forward now, noting the improbability of falling costs and the long lead time for delivery — it will reportedly take about a year for the equipment to be delivered.

Funding for the project comes from the sale of bonds. The Village has issued $1.3 million toward the project so far.

Work for the project is expected to begin in early 2023, and the addition of the switchgear is set to take place in late 2023.

Introduction of 2023 budget

Also on Tuesday, Village Manager Michael Braiman provided an introduction to the Village’s 2023 budget.

The proposed budget includes $20.71 million anticipated from the property-tax levy. Those funds are projected to fall into four categories — $11.28 million for operations, $100,000 for the road program, $5.58 million for public safety pensions and $3.75 million for debt service.

The levy represents a 0.56 percent property tax rate reduction — the first drop since 1989, officials said.

“This is a really significant accomplishment,” Braiman said. “… We’re really excited to be able to present that to the Village Board and our community, especially in these times of high inflation and the pressure that’s putting on families and households in Wilmette.”

Other highlights include: no fee changes and a planned drawdown of reserve funds.

While there are no tax or fee increases for 2023, Assistant Village Manager Erik Hallgren said a 4.43 percent property tax rate increase is projected for 2024, as well as increases in stormwater fee and refuse fee at $40 and $2.25, respectively.

The budget featured an increase in personnel expenses by $666,072, or 1.84 percent. Trustee Dan Sullivan expressed concern with the “quick growth” in full time employees without benefits.

“So are we masking? Because we’re not giving benefits but we’re doubling our hiring,” Sullivan said.

Village Manager Michael Braiman said the matter can be discussed further at the budget workshop, scheduled for a Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

“We’re trying to maintain service levels in the most efficient way we can from a budget standpoint,” Braiman said.

Braiman said the workshop will not be streamed live but staff are working to record it so it can be archived on YouTube for “transparency.” The budget adoption ordinance is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 22, and the property tax levy ordinance adoption is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 13.

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Cailey Gleeson

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