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La Grange Wants Residents to Help with Flood Data

The village seeks state and federal aid and asks residents to fill out damage reports.

Two days after a dozen residents of La Grange talked to officials about flooded basements and streets during the Village Board's July 26 meeting, the village sent out a notice to its thousands of CodeRed subscribers, asking residents to fill out a questionnaire about damage incurred.

The survey of damage will result in data needed to make a case for federal and state disaster aid, said Andrianna Peterson, assistant village manager. The information is also helpful to the village as it addresses the issues brought up by residents at the meeting.

"We're encouraging everyone to fill out the questionnaire," Peterson said. "We're in the process of compiling the information. We're trying to see if there's a block, or where acute problems are."

Peterson said the village is also planning a public meeting to explain how the village responds to storms and notifies residents during emergencies, and to discuss measures residents may be able to implement to minimize future damage.

The CodeRed system sends telephone messages during disasters to thousands of phone numbers. On its Web site, the village said the data used to generate the calls is not complete and residents should register with the system.

Peterson said residents should understand the aid may not include cash; it could be loans and usually doesn't cover furniture and appliances.

During public comments at the July 26 board meeting, residents requested repairs to heavily hit areas. Board president Elizabeth Asperger told residents the village staff will continue to look into their situations.

Brian Riley, of the 700 block of Spring Street, told the board his basement filled with seven feet of water from the storm and he was not satisfied with what he said was a "passive method of communication" from the village during flooding.

"You need to take a more proactive approach to get the word out to us," Riley said. "There are people here wanting the information only you can provide."

Ryan Gillingham, director of public works, responded, "A key point here is that the system has a finite capacity. We videotape and clean sewers regularly to ensure that there's not a collapse or there's not something blocking the line."

Bridget Wicklander, who has lived at the corner of Sunset Avenue and Elm Avenue for 30 years, has seen inches of rainwater collect in her basement routinely during storms. 

The storm during the early hours of July 24 was no exception; Wicklander asked the board why the village has overlooked fixing the dip in the road near her home, which creates a pond during storms. 

She suggested diverting the water build-up to a nearby field along Cossitt Avenue.

"Why don't they send the water there? Instead, it ends up on our corner and ultimately in our basements," she said.

Village Manager Robert Pilipiszyn said the storm brought about six inches of rain to La Grange.

Pilipiszyn told the board the Public Works Department responded to about 80 calls about flooded basements on July 24 and 25, while at the same time crews were dispatched to barricade flooded streets and intersections and to clean debris from storm water inlets.

"We are currently in the process of completing an initial assessment and damage form, which is the first step in applying for any state and federal assistance for affected residents who may qualify due to flooded basements and water damage," Pilipiszyn said.

Gov. Patrick Quinn and Cook County Board President Todd Stroger declared Cook County a disaster area after the storm; several suburbs and townships within the county have been awarded aid.

Peterson, the assitant village manager, said municipalities have the power to declare themselves disaster areas, which is sometimes necessary for policy reasons, in order to spend money toward certain areas. But, in La Grange, that wasn't necessary, she said.

"Because the county was on it right away, there wasn't a reason for us to go through that process ourselves."

The village can routinely apply to recoup taxpayer dollars used during a storm, but the current situation—where residents can apply to personally recoup funds—is more rare, she said.

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