The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago partners with municipalities within its service area (generally, Cook County, Illinois) to fund green infrastructure installations. As part of their agreement to receive funding, municipalities must commit to perform regular maintenance. Municipalities that have participated in MWRD’s Green Infrastructure Partnership Program have reported difficulty in finding affordable options for performing the required maintenance on GI installations. In attempt to find a way to make green infrastructure maintenance more affordable and accessible, MWRD submitted a proposal to the Collaborative Grant Program that was accepted. 

The plan: Establish a program where neighboring municipalities with varying income levels pool funds to equitably share a green infrastructure maintenance crew, reducing costs for all. MWRD’s consultant will compile a list of GI installations in the municipalities and work with municipal staff to determine a budget based on the projects’ operations and maintenance plans. The communities will enter into intergovernmental agreements with each other to pool funds and put out a multi-year contract for maintenance. MWRD’s consultant will find a facilitator to manage the pooled funds, administer the contract and inspect maintenance when complete to ensure the contractor is performing the maintenance properly. The consortium will pay for the facilitator’s services through the shared fund.  

What actually happened: Unanticipated hurdles included the difficulty of working with a larger group of communities with different interest levels and available funding for maintenance. It turned out that the municipal leaders do not favor intergovernmental agreements as they thought it would take too long to get everyone to agree and sign.  The consultant did an excellent job of assembling information on all GI installations in the member communities and establishing a maintenance budget for each based on the installations’ operations and maintenance plans. The consultant also developed detailed specifications for three common permeable paver maintenance tasks. 

When we realized the municipalities did not want to establish intergovernmental agreements, we had to look for another way to accomplish our goal. We learned of another method to establish a shared services contract, a Municipal Partnering Initiative (MPI). There is an MPI consisting of a large group of communities in northern Cook County that take turns bidding out work such as street striping, asphalt repaving, etc., but includes the quantities from any/all of the communities that are interested in doing that type of work at the time of the bid. Once a contractor is selected, they sign a separate contract with each community and the work progresses from there. This seemed like an easier way to accomplish the goal, and a smaller group of communities is moving forward with establishing a GI maintenance contract using the same joint bidding technique as the MPI. They were unable to do so within the timelines of the grant but are excited to move forward in the coming months and potentially perform the GI maintenance in the Spring/Summer of 2023. MWRD is grateful for the experience of working with the GI Exchange Collaborative Grant Program and look forward to seeing how these communities achieve the goal of more affordable green infrastructure maintenance. 

Annie Wright, Public Affairs Specialist at Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago; Holly Sauter, Principal Civil Engineer at Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago; Moriah Gelder, Civil Engineer at Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago


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