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Despite flooding, many appreciate benefits of living near the river

Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 9:37 a.m. CST
Caption
(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Antonio Gualtieri surveys some of the damage to his Valley View home after the Fox River flooded April 18.

A week after the Fox River overflowed its banks and sent water crashing into his house, Antonio Gualtieri still was cleaning up.

“There is still a little film left on the floor from the Fox River,” said Gualtieri, who lives on Tuscola Avenue in the Valley View area of St. Charles Township, facing the Fox River.

He estimated six inches of water entered his house as heavy rains fell April 18, representing the worst flooding Gualtieri has seen since he has lived there for the past six or seven years.

“The water’s been up before, but it never got into the house,” he said. “It never got this bad.”

Those living near the river face the risk of such flooding during heavy rain events. And the area took a hard hit in April, with some suffering damage to their property. Despite that, some residents say they still enjoy the benefits and that they can live with the downside.

Gualtieri doesn’t plan to move. He loves the area too much.

“The sunsets are unbelievable,” he said. “Nobody bothers you out here. It is real quiet.”

One of his neighbors, Gina Settipani, also has memories of flooding in the neighborhood. But she wouldn’t trade the quiet beauty her neighborhood provides.

“It’s pretty peaceful out here for the most part,” Settipani said.

Gualtieri still is assessing how much damage the flooding caused. His garage is full of thousands of dollars of woodworking equipment, and he didn’t have flood insurance.

“Flood insurance is $200 a month. Who can afford that?” asked Gualtieri, who is a disabled veteran living on a limited income. He makes a few extra dollars by selling items such as custom made pens that he makes out of tropical wood.

“It’s how I survive,” he said. “What am I supposed to do now?”

Settipani fared much better.

“Water only got into the crawl space,” she said. “We had sandbagged in front of the house. The water completely covered the front yard.”

This isn’t the first time that Settipani, who has lived in her house for more than 10 years, has seen flooding in her neighborhood.

“In 2007, it seemed worse,” she said. “It can be scary.”

The Kane County Supervisor of Assessments’ office is beginning the process of reassessing property damaged during the storms. Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen and Gov. Pat Quinn have declared Kane County to be a major disaster area, which triggers the disaster area reassessment provisions of the Illinois Property Tax Code.

The Natural Disaster Homestead Exemption covers residential structures occupied by an owner that is rebuilt after the flooding. This exemption was enacted in 2012 by the General Assembly and is available this year for the first time. To be eligible, the residential structure must be rebuilt within two years and have a square footage of no more than 110 percent of the prior structure. Information is available by calling the Kane County Assessment Office at 630-208-3818 or visiting Kane County’s website, www.countyofkane.org.

According to the National Weather Service, the Chicago area received 8.65 inches of rain in April, making it the wettest April on record for Chicago, breaking the previous record of 8.33 inches of rain set in April 1947.

“The last time we had this much flooding was in 2008,” said Don Bryant, director of the Kane County Office of Emergency Management.

His office helped 940 homes affected by the April 18 flooding, about as many as it helped in 2008.

“We distributed sandbags and cleanup kits to those affected residents, along with connecting them to social service agencies that can help,” Bryant said.

Bryant is keeping an eye on forecasts that call for more rain Thursday and Friday. Conditions right now are improving, he said.

“We are seeing the Fox River recede,” he said. “It is down to 11.5 feet in Algonquin. It is down about a foot.”

He cautioned residents, especially those living along the Fox River, that they always need to be prepared for the possibility of flooding after heavy rains.

“They need to be aware of their situation,” Bryant said. “If they live by the river, they should be aware that the river will flood.”

Two subdivisions in Sugar Grove that have been long plagued by flooding – Mallard Point and Rolling Oaks subdivisions – did not experience problems this time around after recent improvements were made.

“They did not experience any flooding from the reports I heard,” said Paul Schuch, director of water resources for Kane County. “We are quite pleased with the drainage improvements they made.”

But he said some homes in Aurora Township were hard hit by the flooding.

“These are homes in older subdivisions that were built prior to the current regulations regarding stormwater improvement,” Schuch said.

Those who were affected are dealing with the issues. And despite what happened to his home, Gualtieri is trying to remain optimistic.

“Tomorrow is another day,” he said.

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