Local News

Holiday Hills sewer installation to be completed in phases after costs shoot up to $12 million

Some remain concerned with price to connect their homes to pipes and remove septic tanks

Holiday Hills residents such as James Klem experienced a bit of sticker shock this month when the local sewer operator alerted them that hooking up the village to a wastewater network as part of an extension project would cost more than $5 million above last year’s initial estimate.

They were relieved to learn, however, that the village of about 300 homes on the Fox River would not have to contribute funding to make up the almost 80% difference between the current estimate of $12 million and last year’s projection of $6.7 million.

But the project will have to be completed in multiple phases as more funding becomes available.

Klem said his house is expected to be completed this year, but he is nevertheless disappointed the decision to connect Holiday Hills to a sewer system was approved by the village board without going to a village referendum before voters.

Klem said he remains concerned with the costs residents will face to hook up their homes to the sewer system and remove their septic tanks.

The sewer operator leading the project, called the Northern Moraine Wastewater Reclamation District, which already serves Lakemoor, Port Barrington and Island Lake, said it is seeking additional grant funding to help fill the gap, including through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

“I think they will find the government money,” Holiday Hills Village President Lou French said.

While Northern Moraine will finance the construction of the infrastructure – which includes 27,000 linear feet of sewer, 100 manholes, 4,000 linear feet of force main and one lift station – residents will have to pay connection fees to the district of just less than $11,000, plus pay to hook up their showers, toilets and sinks on their properties and decommission their septic fields.

Residents will have the option to finance the connection fee costs through the district on 30-year loans with a 4% interest rate if they connect to the sewer system within the first three years it becomes available to their homes. Residents also can finance it privately.

Even though the district has said its financing opportunity is a good deal and the district rarely offers lending programs for connection fees, residents such as Klem said they think the village should have explored more ways to limit the residents’ costs of hooking up and realigning the pipes within their own homes.

All Holiday Hills residents will have to connect to the sewer system if their septic fails or within 15 years it becomes available to their homes, whichever comes first. French, the village president, pointed out that means many will have more time now, since the project is being built in phases, rather than all this year.

The first phase will include installation of the lift station, force main and underground trunk sewer on Sunset and Holiday drives, reaching 65 homes, Northern Moraine said. About 250 more homes in the project area would be given access to the system in the later phases, district documents show.

“I’m just upset that some assistance to offset residents’ cost has not been discussed. And every time we try to bring it up it’s just put down,” Klem said.

Most of the residents who have concerns with the project are in support of sewers being installed, Klem said, as Northern Moraine and village leadership has expressed concerns with the environmental impacts of failing septic fields in the area.

Klem and other residents say they only are trying to ensure they do so in the most financially efficient way possible. He noted that many of the village’s residents are 55 and older and on limited incomes.

The district proposed the sewer extension into Holiday Hills and the Village Board approved an agreement last year after Northern Moraine secured $3.5 million in state grant funding for the addition.

Northern Moraine sent Holiday Hills residents notices alerting them of the cost hike earlier this month.

“Part of the cost increase relates to necessary design changes, soils investigation, dewatering requirements, and expanded restoration – all based on previously unknown field conditions that were first identified during design,” Northern Moraine District Manager Mohammed Haque said in the letter.

It also said the biggest driver of costs has been pandemic-induced economic conditions that have led to higher material and labor costs. Sewer pipe alone has doubled in price amid the health crisis, Northern Moraine said.

“[Northern Moraine] is actively seeking funding opportunities on local, state and federal levels to complete the project for the entire service area,” Haque said. “It is [Northern Moraine’s] goal to construct as much sanitary sewer as practical over the next several years.”