Students at Evanston’s fastest-growing elementary school may have to spend another year playing on a potentially dangerous storm water retention pond due to changes in requirements for permits to do the work to fix the problem.
The bad news was announced at a meeting this week of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board’s Finance Committee, and some board members were not happy about it.
When Lincoln Elementary School, at Main Street and Forest Avenue, was expanded a few years ago, the city required the district to convert the playground to a water retention pond as part of a program to keep storm water from backing up into residential basements.
District consulting engineers came up with a plan to remedy the situation by constructing underground tanks to capture the water when it rains and topping it with a new playground, with grass sodding, that would be level with the surrounding property.
The plan was to do the work this summer so that the playground would be ready for students when they return to classes this year in the fall.
In a discussion of financing needs for summer capital projects, the administration recommended a delay in the project because it could take months to obtain permits from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) and the City of Evanston.
The city’s consulting engineer said that once the board approves the project, the design could be developed. Then it requires approval by the City of Evanston before it can be submitted to the MWRD, which could take up to five months to give its approval.
Regulators might require some changes to the proposed design, he said, which would have to be completed before the project could go out for bid.
“The permit process would start around July 2015, with bids being obtained for board approval around February 2016,” the committee was advised in a memo. “Work on the Lincoln storm water project could then begin once school gets out in summer 2016 and be substantially completed before the start of the 2016/2017 school year,” the administration said.
At Monday's meeting, district chief finanial officer Mary Brown said that the district could expect to get the best price if the bidding was done in December or January, before contractors are booked up for post-winter work.
Board member Claudia Garrison said the delay is “very hard to accept,” as the board thought of it as an emergency project that needed to be done at the earliest opportunity.
Her concern was echoed by committee chairman Richard Rykhus, who said that the administration might put some pressure on the city and the MWRD to speed up the approval process.
There was a question as to whether the sod could be installed during the growing season, but Rykhus said that, even if the kids had to play on dirt for a year, that might be preferable to delaying the project for another year.
He asked Superintendent Paul Goren to see what could be done, in light of the board’s desire for immediate action, and to report back to the board at its regular meeting next week.
That meeting, which normally would be on Monday, has been postponed to Tuesday because of Monday’s Presidents Day holiday.