Flood relief tops news in 2012
Winnetka,07/23/11 Bob Linn of Winnetka walks knee deep in water along his street in the 1200 block of Cherry Lane Saturday morning after a powerful overnight storm dumped millions of gallons of water onto Chicago and the surrounding suburbs for hours earl
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Updated: December 27, 2012 9:03AM
WINNETKA — For a second straight year stormwater and flood relief remained the talk of the town in Winnetka, this time for the proposed solutions and multi-million dollar projects now sitting on the table.
Also at the top was another storm, this one created in District 36 when popular teacher David Wartik was fired by the school board after it learned of an investigation of the teacher by the Evanston Police Department.
The summer brought the excitement of the Olympic games in London where Conor Dwyer captured a gold medal and his hometown of Winnetka provided encouragement for Dwyer and Team USA. The future of the former home of The Winnetka Club and realization of artificial turf at New Trier High School’s football stadium also created buzz in 2012.
1. Effects of 2011 flood still felt
Though Winnetka’s major flooding event took place in July 2011, stormwater continues to be a major issue at village board meetings.
Village Engineer Steve Saunders continues to give monthly stormwater updates to the village council and several thousands of dollars have been spent on studying the various areas of the village affected by flooding.
“Our long-term comprehensive plan is looking at all potential improvements that could be done,” Saunders said Dec. 11. “As that’s developed a big part of the discussion is determining timing, priority and funding for a variety of improvements. Some of which are already under way, some are mid-term and some long-term.”
The various studies have led to numerous stormwater relief projects to be proposed in recent months, highlighted by a nearly $35 million stormwater tunnel underneath Willow Road. The 96-inch tunnel would follow Willow Road from Glendale Avenue east out to Lake Michigan. Areas north and south of Willow Road would feed into the system to provide flood relief for a major portion of the village.
On Nov. 13, Saunders asked the council permission to begin preparing a request for proposal for work on the tunnel in order to “keep the process moving.” The plan is to have the request for proposal ready for when the village ultimately approves the project.
Concerns have been raised about the tunnel dumping large amounts of stormwater into the lake, affecting various beaches and towns up and down the north shore. Village staff has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency, The US Army Corps of Engineers and other regulatory agencies about the proposal.
“What we got from those agencies is that the project is feasible and we’re heading in the right direction,” Saunders said.
Efforts to fund the project, however, have yet to be determined. The council met with Donohue Associates to learn about funding options, including bonds, taxes and stormwater fees, but nothing has been finalized.
On Dec. 11 the council looked at six additional study areas within the village and heard proposed solutions to reduce their flood risks. Financing the Willow Road tunnel and other small stormwater projects will be key as the calendar turns to 2013.
2. Winnetka Public Schools District 36 teacher fired
Former Hubbard Woods Elementary School teacher David Wartik was cast into the spotlight in March when it was revealed the Evanston Police Department was investigating him through their “juvenile bureau” over an alleged incident which took place in the late 1990s at National-Lewis University’s Laboratory School.
Wartik, a popular teacher at Hubbard Woods, was placed on leave and eventually fired by the district after a tense board meeting in front of dozens of Wartik supporters.
District 36 began their own investigation into the matter and later claimed Wartik’s “purposful obstruction” led to their investigation becoming “permanently compromised.”
District 36 Superintendent Thomas Hagerman said the alleged obstruction had to do with “destruction of evidence” that had been stored digitally.
In April the Evanston Police Department announced the investigation of Wartik had been dropped and Wartik’s attorney, Glen Seiden, said a lawsuit would be coming, but has yet to be filed.
“They ruined this guy’s life for no reason, because of dirty minds,” Seiden said.
3. Dwyer brings home Olympic gold from London
Winnetka resident Conor Dwyer triumphantly returned home from the 2012 Olympic games in London, and brought with him some Olympic gold.
Dwyer, along with teammates Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Ricky Berens, took the gold medal in the 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay July 31 at the Olympic Aquatics Centre in London, and Dwyer was honored in his hometown Aug. 25.
Dwyer took questions, signed autographs and shared Olympic stories with hundreds of supporters at Hubbard Woods Park. He talked about how Phelps, who was seeking to become the most decorated Olympian of all time, asked the swimmers shortly before the race to “give (him) a big lead” against the French team.
As the race unfolded, Dwyer, who entered the pool second of the four team members, realized what was happening for Team USA.
“I thought, ‘Wow. We might win a gold medal,’” Dwyer recalled. “I saw my 40 family members in the stands chanting, ‘U-S-A!’ Leading up to it was all pressure. Once I dove in the water the pressure was over.”
4. Winnetka Club sells clubhouse on Maple Street
After more than a century in their large Victorian clubhouse overlooking the Winnetka Village Green, the Winnetka Club – formally the Winnetka Woman’s Club – sold the home located at 485 Maple St.
Citing the cost of upkeep for such an old building, declining membership and rising property taxes, the club called the move “unavoidable” in a release sent out in March.
The building hosted numerous events over the years, including book clubs, boy scout meetings, Veterans Day observances, breakfasts with Santa and countless other meetings, parties and receptions.
Winnetka Club co-president Debbie Sullivan said even though the club is a 501c3 organization, they still had to pay property taxes on the house, which was zoned residential. The final year of property taxes paid by the club totalled $25,691.
The deal to sell the clubhouse closed in April and a permit to demolish the house was sought in Sept., but the future of the building remains in limbo.
5. New Trier takes the field on new, artificial turf
A nearly 10-year desire to bring artificial turf to the New Trier High School football stadium and surrounding athletic fields was realized when the school board approved a $3 million expense for the new fields.
Work began on installing the 2.5 new artificial surface fields at 7 Happ Road in Northfield earlier this spring and the stadium was ready for the first Trevian home football game Aug. 31 against Warren Township High School.
A $1 million pledge from the New Trier Booster Club helped offset some of the costs through the “Tackle the Turf” campaign, which sold hundreds of personalized brick pavers that were installed outside the stadium.
The new turf allows the school to use the field year-round and benefits not only New Trier athletics, but the entire curriculum as well.
“(The fields) will be a classroom for seven hours a day,” said athletic director Randy Obrembt. “They’ll get tremendous utility on there that they couldn’t get out of natural surfaces.”
The fields serve the school’s kinetic wellness (physical education) classes, intramural sports, summer camps, clinics and community events.