Brookfield homeowners who have been putting off installing a flood-control system for their homes because of the cost may want to reconsider now that the village has restarted its 50-50 reimbursement program.

On April 11, trustees voted unanimously to earmark $300,000 in 2022 to reimburse homeowners who install one of three types of flood-control systems for their properties. Those taking advantage of the program will also not have to pay permit fees.

The village will begin accepting applications as early as this week. Information and a brochure about the program will be posted on the village’s website at brookfieldil.gov.

Homeowners applying to be part of the program can receive rebates of up to $3,000 for installation of a backflow prevention valve, up to $4,000 for a backflow prevention valve with a bypass pump and up to $5,000 for installing overhead sewers.

A plain backflow prevention valve is the cheapest and simplest flood-control system to install. The device acts as its name implies; a valve inside the pipe will allow water to flow out of the home to the sewer but will not allow sewerage to back up into the home.

At the same time, during very heavy rain events, if the valve is activated then water from inside the home will also be unable to flow out and backups could result if a resident continues to run lots of water while the backflow prevention valve is engaged.

The two ways around that problem are both more complicated and more expensive. Homeowners could opt to install a backflow prevention valve paired with a bypass pump. If the backflow prevention valve is engaged, the pump would direct water coming from the home around the valve into the sewer system.

The most expensive solution is installing overhead sewers, which eliminates all gravity drainage beneath the basement floor. Overhead sewers are installed just below the first floor, and basement sewerage is pumped up and out of the home. Overhead sewers are the most reliable and are the standard for any new single-family residential construction in Brookfield.

The vast majority of homeowners will likely opt for the simplest solution, said Public Works Director Carl Muell.

“My prediction is that we’re not going to see a lot of overhead sewer system options in this program,” Muell said. “It is a big undertaking for a homeowner and a lot of construction on their homes. A lot of people don’t want to get that involved.”

Muell said the simple backflow prevention valve is the most popular solution for homeowners.

“They’re the most cost-effective, they’re the cheapest and they work,” Muell said.

The reimbursement is for installation of the flood-control system only and does not include costs for any interior demolition/repair, landscape repair or others that may result from the installation. Repairing basement seepage problems is also not eligible for reimbursement.

Brookfield first began offering reimbursement for installing flood-control systems in private homes in 2013 after a series of storms over a five-year period caused repeated basement flooding. The village initially set aside $120,000 for the program, but it proved popular enough that an additional $100,000 was earmarked in 2014. 

By about 2016, the village discontinued the program due to declining applications and for budgetary reasons.

The program approved by village trustees on April 11 also simplifies what had been a more complicated process, one that had required at least three written estimates. The program will be administered by the Brookfield Community Development Department and while the village still recommends obtaining multiple estimates from contractors, only one is necessary to apply.

On April 11, trustees also agreed with Village Manager Timothy Wiberg that the village would not reimburse homeowners who installed flood-control systems prior to the restart of the program. Wiberg said he’s received multiple calls asking about retroactive reimbursement but told elected officials he doesn’t recommend doing so.

“I understand people are frustrated by that,” Wiberg said. “If we go back two, three, four years … it’s very unwieldy and it’s very difficult to administer that.”

The village did not offer retroactive reimbursement in 2013, Wiberg said, so where is the line drawn?

“I think it creates a dangerous precedent and an administrative logjam for the staff,” said Village President Michael Garvey. “It’s disappointing to the residents who made the investment, but we had the same issue in 2013.”