Help on the way for flood-weary residents, businesses

December 2, 2017 GMT

STERLING – Engineering has started on several stormwater sewer projects so work can begin as soon as the spring construction season rolls around.

The engineers are working in five areas atop the city’s priority list, and those projects should be started first next spring.

Strand Associates is doing the lion’s share of the engineering work, but other firms including Willett, Hofmann & Associates and Wendler Engineering also are working on the projects.

Strand has taken the lead on the city’s stormwater management work for many years, having done a comprehensive plan in 2004, and an updated version in 2011.

The city asked Strand for proposals for several of the 2018 projects and the City Council OK’d an agreement with the firm at its Oct. 16 meeting.

The contract is for four projects, including the Northland Mall area, the city’s top priority. Strand is putting together plans for a complex stormwater project behind the mall that includes building two regional detention basins west of the mall and south of Lynn Boulevard.

The second Strand project is for drainage improvements at Miller Road and Second Avenue. A storm sewer interceptor likely would be built to channel water into an Elkhorn Creek tributary. That project will include a significant amount of road, sidewalk, curb and gutter work.

“The engineers are looking for a solution to the flooding in this area, so we’re not exactly sure what that will look like,” City Manager Scott Shumard said.

The firm also has started work on detention and sewer improvement plans near Douglas Park. The sewer would be run from the intersection of Woodside Avenue and Harvey Drive to a new detention basin. Extensive street, sidewalk, curb and gutter work is planned on Chestnut Avenue, Douglas Drive, Woodside Avenue and Harvey Drive.

Engineering hasn’t started yet, but Strand’s contract also includes a detention basin project near the Duis Recreation Center on East 23rd Street.

Land acquisitions have been a big part of the overall stormwater sewer plans. Some has already been bought and negotiations for other parcels will soon begin. Properties the city still is eyeing involve the Northland Mall, Duis Center and Douglas Park projects.

A lot on Lynn Boulevard is on their radar for the mall project. The lot, one of four near Sauk Valley Media’s Sterling headquarters, is owned by Shawmor Limited Partnership, part of the newspaper’s parent company, Shaw Media.

The city already has purchased a 12.6-acre parcel behind the mall from an absentee owner who owed 4 years in back taxes. The city has been working to clear out trees and brush from the area.

“We have that one, we’ve taken care of the Abiding Word church property, and it turned out we didn’t need to acquire the land across from the mall,” Shumard said.

The city entered into an economic development agreement with local developer Brick Boss on property Boss bought at 2607 E. Lincolnway. A damaged culvert on the property that was too small for the job was a big contributor to flooding problems near the mall.

Boss asked for help paying for the culvert work, which could cost up to $250,000. The city drew up the agreement, which has Boss doing some of the work himself and the city reimbursing him for part of it.

“This isn’t the type of agreement the city would normally take part in, but this will save us money that can be used for the other stormwater projects,” Shumard said.

Boss, of Rock Falls, owns Boss Roofing and Siding Experts. He has demolished a dilapidated building on the property and plans to put up a building that includes a gambling parlor and commercial office space.

The Sterling Park District owns a piece of land that is needed for the project south of the Duis Center, and Comcast is the owner of a parcel the city wants for work in the Douglas Park area.

The city and park district had preliminary discussions about the project in June, but the park district is awaiting final drawings that include an exact location. The property is near the skate park.

The park district has looked at options for using the land in the past, but there was nothing in the works at this time.

“Back when the Lawrence Park pool closed, we had looked at the option of adding a water park there, but it was astronomically expensive and that idea died,” Parks Executive Director Larry Schuldt said.

The area floods easily, but the park district does hope the city will save enough space in case plans change.

“The area isn’t great for building anything, but we’ve told them the smaller the detention area the better and the farther south the better, just in case we have plans down the road,” Schuldt said.

In addition to the Strand contract, engineering jobs have been started on two additional projects.

Willett, Hofmann & Associates is charting improvements in the Dillon Avenue area, and Wendler Engineering Services is looking for a solution to flooding problems in the Sanborn Street-Five Points intersection area.

The projects in the Strand contract, however, are at the top of the city’s priority list. That engineering contract pays Strand an estimated $178,100, based on hourly fees and anticipated expenses.

“These are the top four 2018 construction projects, and some of the most expensive, totaling about $4.4 million,” Shumard said.

There are several other projects on a secondary list that will be worked on over the next few years. The city took out nearly $10 million in bonds to accelerate the pace of the projects.

Sales tax revenue will be used to pay off the bonds over 20 years. Voters approved a doubling of the city’s portion of the sales tax in April, providing an estimated $2.35 million a year for capital projects.