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Bloomington Leaders Learn More About June Floods, Sewer Line Issues

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Michele Steinbacher
/
WGLT
Bloomington City Council members look at images of June's flood damage during a committee-of-the-whole meeting on Monday, July 19, 2021, at the Government Center in Bloomington.

How Bloomington responded to extensive flooding last month, and how the disaster impacts infrastructure improvement plans, continue to dominate city leaders’ public discussions.

On Monday night, much of Bloomington City Council’s committee-of-the-whole meeting focused on the June 24-25 floods. Council members are trying to solve the puzzle of funding the separation of sewer and sanitary lines, predominantly in older sections of the city.

For the second week in a row, nearly a dozen Eastgate neighborhood residents on the city's east side spoke during public comments. Several called on Bloomington to speed up plans to separate the lines in that neighborhood, and others in similar distress.

Monday’s in-person meeting at the Government Center also was live streamed on YouTube.

Public Works Director Kevin Kothe led a presentation on the city’s initial response to the emergency situations of that weekend. He said the devastation wasn’t limited to Eastgate. It was widespread, he said.

“We had people in a whole corridor through the core of Bloomington that had both significant backup through the combination sewers in excess of 5, 6, even 7 feet — and the surface flooding. Both,” he said.

Kothe demonstrated that with maps indicating where the more than 500-reports of flood damage occurred. He also shared flyover images captured with a drone camera, showing widespread flooding in several areas of Bloomington, including near downtown, and in more rural settings such as along Ireland Grove Road.

He said the heavy rains caused more than two dozen cave-ins and sinkholes throughout Bloomington, too.

Kothe fielded questions on the combined sewer overflow that results from such systems. The overflow refers to when the backups of the combined systems’ spill into a body of water, he said. He said the issues were complex, and the increasing problems are common in communities the size of Bloomington.

“There’s no one quick answer for all this,” said Kothe.

City Manager Tim Gleason said Kothe’s staff is collecting and analyzing data about the June floods. Over the next month, that will be shared with the council, he said.

Gleason said this week, PMA, the third party that handles claims against the city, is expected to send decisions to the more than 500 Bloomington homeowners and business owners who filed flood-related claims.

Also, he said public works’ flood-related bulk waste pickup should have its initial run completed by Wednesday, adding flood-damaged bulk waste pickups will continue on an as-needed basis.

Crisis counselors on 911 calls

In an unrelated matter, the council discussed the possibility of creating a program to send mental health crisis counselors on calls, along with police or firefighter first responders.

However, with Gov. JB Pritzker expected to sign into law new legislation connected to that idea, the council decided to wait and revisit the proposal, at its August committee meeting.

Ward 1’s Jamie Mathy, who suggested the idea, said over the years the state has chipped away at funding that supports mental health issues shifting crisis response to three groups: teachers, firefighters and police. He said a new program could explore when to send crisis counselors. He said the city could partner with a local nonprofit such as PATH Crisis Center to develop a trial period.

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