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Utica mayor Fred Esmond surveys the repairs underway at the village hall, which has been closed since April’s record floods. Esmond initially was unhappy that the village hall, built following the 2004 tornado, did not withstand the flooding though the monetary loss, $55,000, wasn’t as bad as feared. “It was well above the 100-year flood plain. But the flood plain keeps changing.”
Fred Esmond wasn’t happy when Utica’s village hall got hit in April’s record flood. The building had been designed to withstand flooding and would’ve been spared if the river had crested a few inches lower. But now, contractors are nearly finished with repairs and the price tag, $55,000, wasn’t as steep as Esmond had feared. The mayor’s irritation has receded along with the floodwater. And, certainly, Esmond doesn’t need to look far to find communities that were harder hit than Utica. “When I look at what happened to Marseilles,” he said, “my heart goes out to them.” Utica’s next village board meeting is July 10 and Esmond said the village hall will be open for business. This week, contractors put in ceramic tile to replace the vinyl flooring that buckled in the flood. Next week, the carpet goes in. The electrical work gets done at the end of June and village officials will be in by Independence Day. What’s more, the village hall was insured; Utica will only be out the $25,000 deductible plus the cost of a few furnishings. Esmond said village officials are even considering building an elevated gallery for him and the six trustees, who currently preside at folding tables on meeting night. There is only one worry. Utica has had two record-breaking floods in the past five years. Could there be another one? “(The village hall) was well above the 100-year flood plain,” Esmond recalled stoically. “But the flood plain keeps changing.” Business owners operating south of the Illinois and Michigan Canal are up and running or at least getting close — but the damage described was worse than what Esmond reported. “I ripped the floors out of the whole building,” said Debbie Bradbury, owner of Country Cupboard, which was closed two weeks. “It was nasty.” George Koch, owner of the Village Greenhouse liquor store, took 3½ feet of water in his retail space plus another 4 feet in his crawl space. He was closed 27 days. “It was horrible. I replaced all the floor joists and the flooring, the furnace took a hit,” Koch said. “I don’t know who’s doing the math on that 100-year flood, but it’s pretty brutal having it twice.” “To have two tragedies like that close together, it definitely hurts.” Norman Arwood, owner of Stonehead, managed to get his inventory out before he flooded but still took 33 inches of water. He tore out most of his drywall, moved a few electrical plus 4 feet off the ground and reopened after 12 days. “It was quite an ordeal,” Arwood said. “I’ve had worse jobs, but that was working for someone else. This was the worst working on my own. “Hopefully, this will be the last flood,” he said. “You never know.”
Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930.
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