Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Last Official Blog as City Engineer

Beginning May 4th, I will officially be removed from my position as city engineer/director of public works for the city by the new mayor Jeff Grove. So I thought I would post at least one more time to say thank you to everyone for the opportunity to serve them and for allowing me the chance to try to help make LaSalle a great place to live.

Looking back, I have been amazed that we were able to do so much with so little money and staff. With the increasing regulations and requirements and reduced revenues, keeping the city well maintained while trying to grow and plan for a future has been a challenging task. I feel bad that the people obviously were not happy with the work that we have tried to accomplish over the last four years.

However, I appreciate everyone who, during my time with the city, worked with me and believed in our town. Over the next month I will be busy closing out my office at city hall and looking for new employment so I will be unavailable to help with any questions or issues related to the city. During this time, please contact Mike Furlan at 815-228-6102, Cindy Arbisi at 815-223-6344 or the mayor to be, Jeff Grove, at 815-224-8660 or 815-830-4606.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stimulus Road Money Submittal

With all this talk about transparency about the ARRA (stimulus money act), I thought I would do may part to make our participation as transparent as possible. So here is the low-down on our road money status:

Last Mon., March 9, 2009, the city council approved using the stimulus money allocated to the city of LaSalle to repair the following road sections:

Creve Coeur: Third to Eighth
First street at Crosat (intersection only)
Third: LaHarpe to Sterling
Eighth: Joliet to Crosat
Edwards: 2 Blocks west of St. Vincent to St. Vincent
Crosat: O'conor to Grant

And in an effort to be even more transparent, here is a link to the document the city was required to submit to IDOT to secure the funding: ARRA TIP sheet

(Note: the amount shown is based on an estimate only - the final cost may be more or less depending on the final design and construction costs. Also, this document is not yet approved; only submitted)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

City of LaSalle Progress Update

Normally the city presents an update of progress in the city at the end of each year. But in December of 2008 we were so busy trying to deal with flood-related issues and submittals of stimulus project information that we were prevented from being able to find the time to create this presentation.

Each Spring, the mayor also provides this update to Rotary so we finally made time to put it all together, and Mayor Washkowiak delivered the speech this week at a regular Rotary meeting. This year we also have a free account at where we can save the presentation for all to see.

But even better, here is a copy of it for you to view:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stimulus Package Update

Over the last few months, we have tried to keep track of what was happening with the stimulus package so that we can maximize our chance to get money for our city. So far it looks like IDOT has released a document indicating we will share roughly $700,000 with Peru and Oglesby. We expect that this amount will be split between the cities based on population.

This road money can only be spent on certain roads though because of the way the legislators wrote the bill. We can also spend it on replacing road signs which I realize no one is very excited about doing. But unfortunately our legislators also passed a law that we have to do this one way or another, so no matter what we must replace signs. If we don't use stimulus money for this, we will have to take it out of the regular city funds.

As for water and wastewater, we have attended the IEPA's webinar on how to go about submitting the projects for funding. The funding process here is a little more complicated. The state will give cities up to a total of $10 million for wastewater and $5 for water. However, the award will be based on readiness and availability of funds and the submittal and approval of all the related EPA paperwork. And the state will only fund up to half the project cost with half of that being considered a grant and half being a no-interest loan. The state will also offer the city a no-interest loan for the other half of the project. So the bottom line is:

If we submit a project for $1,000,000, we will get:
$250,000 of grant money we don't have to pay back
$750,000 of loan money that is paid back over 20 years with no interest

Like anything involving federal funds, there is attached an enormous amount of work for us to do to make sure we can secure the funding that has little to do with the plans and specifications. We are working on it and trying to get everything in on time. If you have any questions or want to discuss this at all, please feel free to stop in or post a comment.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Winter Work

Occasionally, I hear people wonder what we are doing when we are not out ripping up roads and fixing streets. So I thought I would try to share with you some of the tasks that we try to work on over the winter months:

The city has over 300 parcels of land that need to be monitored, inventoried, and managed. When I first started working for the city back in 1993, there was no listing or map of the properties in which the city held and interest. Since then I have built up a database of all the parcels I have been able to find, but I know there are still a few more out there. Finding the deeds or other documents that transfer this interest is not always easy and can take some time. So I try to spend a few weeks on these activities in the winter to improve our database and work on our city map. Unfortunately each year we get more and more busy leaving less time to work on property issues.

Another task that takes place each January is related to property is the filing of Certificates of Status of Exempt Property. Because the city does not pay real estate tax on the property owned by the city, we are required each year to re-certify that the city is still the owner. The county mails out the forms, I check to make sure we still meet the exemption status. Then I fill out the form, sign, and mail them back to the county. This year we filed certificates for 55 parcels.

This year, we unfortunately are busy working on the documentation related to last year's flooding of our wastewater plant. Mike Furlan, Sam McNeilly, and Andy Bacidore have been spending significant time collecting and documenting the work and related bills, then filling out the FEMA forms, meeting with FEMA, and filing the required paperwork.

Each Winter we also spend a lot of time surveying and designing projects for the coming year, but this year, we have worked on more than the average number of project designs because of the chance to submit projects for stimulus funding. So far, this is the listing of projects related to water and wastewater and the ones for which we submitted applications to the IEPA:

  • Large Water Meter Replacement Project (no construction permit required)
  • East side Wastewater Treatment Plant (NPDES Permit IL0078336)
  • VFD Installation in City Wellfield (no construction permit required)
  • Painting of Civic Elevated Tank (no construction permit required)
  • Generators at Water Plant & Wellfield (no construction permit required)
  • Purchase of a valve insertion/installation machine (no construction permit required)
  • Illinois Cement Water Main Extension – Permit No. 1956-FY2005
  • Cannon Subdivision - Sanitary Sewer and Water Main Extension – Permit No. 0688-FY2009
  • 2008 Route 6 Water Main Extension – (permit not yet applied for – plans near completion)
  • North System Water Transmission Line (permit not yet applied for – plans near completion)
  • TIF III Sanitary Sewer Extension, Log No. 1942-09
  • Campbell Sanitary Sewer Replacement, Log No. 1839-08
  • Replace Aeration Bay Bridges (no construction permit required)
  • Generators at Wastewater Plant (no construction permit required)
  • Renovation of Historic Post Office for City Police Dept
  • Cannon Subdivision – Sanitary Sewer & Water Main Extension, Log No. 2090-09

We have also worked on road projects but found out last month that the way legislators have written the bill, local governments can only use road money on federal aid roads. Only a few of our streets meet this criteria. And the Illinois DOT is not allowing anyone to formally submit anything at this point. We are planning to submit some road repairs and sign replacements, but have not yet done so based on the information we received from the Illinois DOT.

Many people consider a construction project completed once the work is done, and the contractor leaves the site. But for us, there is still a lot of work yet to be done. Winter is usually spent measuring and calculating the amount of work that was completed. Then we have meetings with the contractor to agree on these quantities and compile pay estimates. We call all of these post-construction activities "finaling-out the job." And depending on how large the job was, this work can take a significant amount of time to complete. This year was no different, Mike Furlan and I spent some time working on documentation and paperwork related to last year's jobs, and we still have a lot more work to do.

So that is it for my summary of what we have been working on over the winter. In addition to all the above, we still try to address the many problems and issues that come up over the winter related to snow removal, salt acquisition and storage, basic maintenance, and citizen concerns. After all that, I guess we will be looking forward to construction starting!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Watch out for Frozen Water Lines & Meters

As the temperatures continue to remain low, the city has received several reports of frozen meters and water lines. Your water meter could freeze if it is located in a basement or crawlspace that is not heated or might be exposed to very cold winds or temperatures. This can be avoided by making sure the area around the water meter is heated or by placing heat tape on the water line near or around the meter. (The photo shows how the bottom plate on the meter cracks to relieve pressure from the ice.)

Your water line between the city main and your home/business is also in danger of freezing if the water line was buried too shallow. Some years, the frost in the ground goes down about 42 inches. Water lines should be installed a minimum of 48 inches, but we know that this is not always the case. Because in LaSalle, the water lines are owned by the property owner all the way from the home/business to the city main, the property owner is responsible for anything that happens to this line, including freezing. However, if your line is frozen, we do encourage you to contact the city at 815-223-4579 to report this. Sometimes we can visit the location and offer some suggestions that might help.

Unfortunately, if all solutions fail to unfreeze the water line, there is nothing left to do but wait for the ground to thaw at that depth. Some have reported waiting weeks for this to happen. Because this is a significant disruption for anyone, we encourage you to take steps to make sure your line does not freeze. The most common practice is to keep a small trickle of water running somewhere in your home. Usually this works to ensure your line will not freeze.

If you know you have a problem with frozen water lines, it is also helpful to report this to the city engineer because if the city has a road project scheduled near where your line runs, there is the possibility of lowering your line during the project.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ice Storm Expected Thurs. Dec. 18, 2008

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for our area involving snow and ice accumulations that may cause treacherous conditions. On Wednesday, the city of LaSalle staff and Red Cross officials held an emergency planning meeting to discuss the city's approach to handling this storm. Although the city has taken precautions, it is difficult at this time to predict exactly what type of weather will hit our area. Residents and businesses are advised to make their own emergency plans and monitor weather conditions. Should the city activate their emergency plan, staff will make every attempt to communicate the city's activities and knowledge of conditions to the public using the Code Red system as a primary means of contact. Other forms of communication could include:

Additional winter weather emergency resources:
FEMA Winter Storm Information
IEMA Winter Storm Preparedness
CDC Winter Weather Information
American Red Cross Winter Storm Information
You Tube video on Food Supplies during an emergency
You Tube video on Water Supplies during an emergency