5 Things You Should Know About the Referendum on the March Ballot 


The Village has been paying $416,000/year as debt service on bonds that will be retired in December of 2018. Once these payments are no longer being made, the Village would like to increase our debt service extension by $400,000 to help pay for future infrastructure improvements.


The Trustees believe that this option will give the Village greater flexibility in issuing debt so that it can take advantage of market conditions and tailor the debt amount to identified infrastructure needs.


The increase in our debt service extension along with other sources of funding will allow us to continue Kenilworth 2023 our major infrastructure improvement program. The next phase of the project will include separating the stormwater and sewer systems in the southeast quadrant of the Village to alleviate flooding and replacing water mains on the west side of town to allow for critical fire hydrant pressure improvements.


The Village plans to use current balances in the Kenilworth 2023, Capital and Sewer Funds. Significant grant money from other government agencies helped defray the Village’s costs for Phase I and we will be soliciting grants for the next phase. Combined with the additional debt service authorization all anticipated project costs will be funded.


The Village has undertaken a series of major infrastructure improvements over the last few years including installing new water mains as well as sewer improvements on both the east and west side of town. Sidewalk and road repairs are also funded in this manner. The new water pumping station, allowing Kenilworth to purchase its water from Wilmette, is another funded project.

Additional Referendum Details

Kenilworth voters will be asked to consider a referendum question during the March 20th Primary Election. The Village Board has asked voters to consider an action that is intended to help fund the next phase of sewer and water main improvements without increasing the debt service paid by property taxes. If voters authorize the action, the Village’s debt service extension base will increase from $600,000 to $1,000,000. 

The increase in the debt service extension base is being timed to avoid increasing property taxes.  Bonds for the construction of the Public Works facility will mature in December of this year.  The bonds required $416,000 in debt service.  As the prior bonds mature, the Village Board is proposing a $400,000 increase to the debt service extension base to fund necessary capital improvements. 

Needed Capital Improvements

In 2012, the Village initiated the Kenilworth 2023 Infrastructure Improvement Program (KW2023).  The three-phase project addressed long-standing flooding and water pressure problems in the Village.  Phase I began in 2013 and was funded by the voter-authorized sale of $9.75 million in general obligation bonds. The Village utilized the funds to:

  • Install new water mains – 97% of the fire hydrants west of Green Bay Road were incapable of providing adequate water flow.  Fire departments typically target a minimum flow of 1,000 gallons per minute for a fire hydrant.  After a fire department test, the majority the Village's hydrants were not able to produce 500 gallons per minute with adequate pressure.  Due to the age and condition of the old cast iron and ductile iron water mains, the only viable solution was to install new water mains. Between 2013 and 2017, the Village has installed new water mains on Roger, Brier and Melrose (west of Green Bay), portions of the alley west of Green Bay Road, Kenilworth Ave between Glendening and Richmond, Cumberland, Roslyn, and Melrose east of Warwick.  Additionally, a section of a 12” water main running between Green Bay Road and Cumnor was rehabilitated with a cured-in-place liner.  Approximately $2.5 million has been spent on water main improvements since 2013. 
  • Reduce Basement and Roadway Sewer Surcharging – The Village has been plagued by the surcharging of sewage into basements, roads and even Lake Michigan for decades.  A 2011 Sewer and Watershed study confirmed what had been previously determined, a new storm sewer system must be installed to reduce the sewage problem.  The approach had been proven successful when the areas west of Green Bay received a separated sewer.  The KW2023 program began the process of separating sewers east of Green Bay Road.  Phase I focused on Cumberland, Roslyn, and Melrose, east of Cumnor.  The streets were selected both because they were upstream on the trunk sewer and due to the failing condition of the infrastructure.  For the project, the Village utilized green infrastructure technology in an effort to best prepare stormwater for future release to Lake Michigan. In support of the efforts, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District contributed $1.2 million toward the $6 million project.
  • Financially Viable Source for Drinking Water – In 2002, the Village made improvements to a portion of the water plant to address EPA requirements and aging equipment.  Fifteen years later, the water pumps and other equipment not previously improved needed to be addressed as the frequency of problems increased.  The Village conducted a multi-year analysis and determined that the most financially prudent decision was to purchase water from Wilmette, rather than invest additional funds into the water plant.  A new underground pumping station was constructed and in January of 2017, the Village began receiving drinking water from Wilmette.  The $1.6 million project is expected to help maintain the water rates at their current levels for several years and have a 30+ year life. 

A more detailed list of capital improvement projects may be found here

Phase II Plans

With the success of KW2023 Phase I projects, the Village is preparing for Phase II.  In 2012, the three-phase program was expected to have a Phase II cost of nearly $10M.  However, with the success of Phase I and other efficiencies, the current estimate is now $8 million.  The project focus continues to be on water mains and sewer improvements. 

Water Distribution System – Fire Hydrants

Having an adequate flow of water for fire suppression continues to be a problem in various sections of the community.  Currently, nearly 95% of the fire hydrants south of Park Drive are not capable of producing 500 gallons per minute of water.  This is half of the 1,000 gallons per minute target.  Therefore, a water distribution engineering model is being produced in early 2018.  The model will assist Village engineers in determining the size and location of new water mains in a way to be most effective.  The graphic below shows those fire hydrants, depicted in red, that produce less than 500 gallons per minute.  Those shown in yellow were found to provide between 500 and 999 gallons per minute.  Phase II will see continued efforts toward improving the flow rate of fire hydrants, improved water system reliability, and lesser amounts of water loss due to system failures.  It is estimated that nearly $2 million will be invested in new water mains during Phase II. 


Sewer Separation - Relief from Sewage Surcharging

The Phase I installation of new storm sewers on Cumberland, Roslyn, and Melrose was successful in reducing flooding in that area.  Additionally, both adjacent streets and other homes served by the trunk sewer line on Sheridan Road have experienced improvement.  Phase II is intended to capitalize on the lessons learned in Phase I and bring additional flooding relief.  Based upon storm condition observations since the Phase I improvements were completed, the Phase II work will be targeted toward the southeast quadrant of the Village.  A stormwater modeling study is being conducted to determine which sanitary sewers are experiencing the worst sewer surcharging.  The results of the study will be used to identify the exact streets and extent of improvements needed for Phase II.  A map depicting the street flooding during a rain event in 2017 is shown below.  It is estimated that nearly $6 million will be invested in the Phase II storm sewer work. 


Anticipated Funding Sources

To fund Phase II water and sewer improvements, the Village Board is considering using a mix of sources. The three primary sources are existing fund balances, grant sources, and additional debt service extension base authority.  The estimated breakdown would be as follows:




Water/Sewer Improvement Estimated Expense


To be refined as design progresses

Fund Balances


KW2023 Fund, Capital Fund, Sewer Fund

Grant Sources


To be determined

Increased Debt Service Extension Base


If approved, used to fund alternate revenue bonds

A key component of the financial plan involves the increased debt service extension base authority.  The proposed $400,000 increase is slightly less than the annual debt service for the bonds that mature in 2018.  If voters authorize the requested debt service increase, the Village Board would exercise the additional authority as-needed.  This would allow the Village to avoid the bonding scenario experienced in Phase I, when the timing of the bond issuance was over 12-months prior to the need and resulted in additional interest costs. This is one of the reasons the Village Board if proposing the debt service extension base increase, rather than directly requesting authority for a general obligation bond. 

If the Referendum Does Not Pass

The Village Board feels that the need for further investments in water and sewer system is obvious.  In addition to the fire flow testing maps, flooding maps, and other evidence, the January 6th water main break is a clear example of the need for improvements.  On that January night, a resident called to report water was entering his basement, possibly from a water main break.  Responding crews worked to isolate the break, but due to the 5-degree temperatures and frozen ground, it was difficult to tell where the water was coming from.  By the time the break was isolated, the Village's water tank had been drained almost completely, four of the five water pumps were running, and two other main breaks occurred due to the increased system pressure.  By the end of the event, the Village lost nearly one million gallons of water.  A picture of one of the two broken cast iron water mains from Ridge Road at Roger Avenue is shown below.  In the picture, you can see some of the rusty deposits that contribute to impeding the flow of water to homes and fire hydrants. 

Water Main Break

To view a PowerPoint presentation on funding options for KW2023 Phase II presented to the Village Board on September 18, 2017, please click here