We sympathize with the residents of the Bolingbrook subdivision in Shalersville, who dread the thought of summer storms because of the likelihood that they will cause devastating flooding to their homes.
Many in the neighborhood, also known as Aurora East, have sustained thousands of dollars worth of damage because of flooding that has rendered their properties unmarketable and, in some case, uninhabitable.
The residents are frustrated and angry. Their homes are a mess and nobody seems to be able to help them. It's time for someone to step up to the plate.
When the homes in Aurora East were built about 50 years ago, zoning and subdivision reviews and building inspections were virtually nonexistent; 300 homes were constructed on slab foundations on sites that included low-lying areas that were flood-prone. Chances are those sites wouldn't be considered buildable today, but the fact remains that homes were constructed and those who purchased them did so in good faith.
About half of the homes in the subdivision were damaged during the July 10 storm, which caused a rapidly rising flood. Many residents sustained substantial property damage, and some were forced to leave their homes. About a dozen homes in the neighborhood have been abandoned.
A drainage system was installed by Portage County in the 1990s, but its effectiveness is being questioned given the persistent flooding. Some wonder if drain lines are plugged or shut down. Others have questioned whether the county's sewage treatment plant, which is located at the southern end of the Bolingbrook neighborhood, had added to the problem. County officials say it has not.
Two years ago, after another flood, county commissioners and the county engineer urged residents to start a drainage petition and asked them to share the estimated $5,000 deposit pending a permanent solution that would be assessed via property taxes. Residents balked, saying that they didn't want to be roped into an open-ended contract without knowing the final cost. We can understand their reluctance.
County officials say they have offered a solution, and that it's up to the residents to act on it. If that solution is unacceptable to the residents of Bolingbrook, other options ought to be explored. Has anyone checked into the possibility of federal flood control funding? Another look at stormwater management efforts on the part of the county also should be considered.
"Our homes are not worth what's owed. What are we going to do?" a Bolingbrook resident asked State Sen. John Eklund, who visited the area this week.
That's a good question. Senator Eklund offered to serve as a conduit between the township, county and the residents to discuss solutions for the problem, including seeking federal funds to remedy the flooding. We commend him for offering to do that and hope that all of the parties with a stake in solving Bolingbrook's problem will work with him.
Something has to be done. Homes are being ruined and, frankly, lives could be at stake if severe flooding remains unchecked. There has to be an answer. It's time to find it.