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City Profiles At Batavia Plus

Whether people work as city staff or volunteer their time as Councilman, volunteers or interested citizens for the City of Batavia, their stories deserve to be told. You'll find them here at City Profiles. 

May 18

Batavia Environmental Commission: 10+ years of greening up community

Posted on May 18, 2017 at 2:58 PM by Christopher Cudworth

 Carolyn Gentry Burnham of the Batavia Environmental Commission discusses the history, progress and plans of the organization. 

What are some of the key issues the BEC addresses and would like to communicate to the citizens of Batavia?

IMG_0393For eleven years the Batavia Environmental Commission has been working to make Batavia a more sustainable city by educating its citizens on different ways that we, as individuals, can make changes that will impact the environment.  

For example our Change One Campaign has placed WalkBatavia signs throughout the city, to encourage people to walk more when you have short trips. 

We are also continually trying to better educate the community how to recycle better.  We have been told by Mayor Schielke that this is a major concern to the city of Batavia and we would like to make Batavia a shining example of a community that can recycle well.  We invite all our citizens to visit BEC’s Facebook Page for more information.  We are constantly updating our page to provide valuable information to residents of Batavia. 

       How can people get involved working with the BEC?

IMG_6250We meet on the 2nd Wednesday of Each month in City Hall Council Chambers and welcome more volunteers. We are taking part in the river cleanup on May 20 so people can show up and help clean our riverbanks.  

The BEC is also involved in the WellBatavia event that is being held June 3rd.  Volunteers are also welcome to help with that event, where we expect to see quite a few people.  

As we organize events such as Green Drinks, Green Night Out at the Movies and other educational events throughout the year we welcome people who can help plan or participate in these fun events.   

We’re also active on social media, and would love to have a dedicated resource to help manage our Facebook page and perhaps add other social media platforms to our outreach. We can always use additional help, no matter how little that can be.  Finding volunteers from all walks of life gives us ideas on our initiatives for the future. There are many great young people committed to the environment, and we could perhaps provide support and connections to help them get reach and awareness for their goals and ideas. 

We would also love to have people that are long-time residents to get involved.  Their wealth of knowledge about the community, it’s history and its environment, are an invaluable addition to the BEC.  Anyone can email or call me if they want more information.

 WhWhat would you like people to know about the BEC’s history and where it is headed now?

The BEC was created about 10 years ago, and we’re entering a new phase of activity. I would like to give a shout out to the great work of newer members Abby Ernzen Beck and Andrew Greenhagen.  We are also looking forward to the appointments of Emma Cole and Anna Baker Nussbaum to the commission soon. They are generating some great ideas for future projects for the BEC. We are also looking at partnering more with other regional eco groups to promote more involvement in our community and environment.  Of course, we will continue to do educational programming throughout the year.

What are some of the successes the BEC has produced over the years of its existence?

Our Green Business Certification program produced results in which a local business– VWR, achieved platinum certification.  The Batavia Community Garden started with the BEC and was a great asset for the community for many years.  For anyone that was involved the Batavia Green Walk or Green Fair on the Fox, those were outstanding events that brought people from the Fox Valley to learn more about eco issues and solutions. 

Recently we held our 9
th Green Night Out at the Movies in March and showed to a nearly standing room crowd of people wanting to know more about what they can do to make a positive change to our environment!  Look for another movie event to take place this fall and Green Night Out at the Movies to come back next winter!

    FroFrom what source does your own interest in the environment come--was there a moment or event that ‘got you green?’

This may sound corny, but back in 1992I ready Al Gore’s book, “Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.”  He methodically and effectively made the argument that the actions of humans have are factors that continue to negatively impact the environment. We do need to make changes to mitigate the problem.

IMG_6205I was a few years out of college, but had never really thought of things in that light before.  I joined the Sierra Club and started reading more about the subject.  When I got married and had kids,  that reality became more important.  We need to live our lives in such a way that we creative a safe environment for our children and our childrens’ children.  I became concerned with the chemical we brought in our home  and applied to our landscapes.  We tried to make our homes as energy efficient as possible.  We continue try as a family to live more sustainably.  We are not perfect though!  Joining the BEC gave me an opportunity to help our community make those positive changes.

        What would be on your ‘wish list’ of things the world should consider?

Wow, that is a big question.  I am not sure I can speak for the what the world should do, but only individuals.  We need to all understand as our population grows, so does our impact on the world around us.  Whether or not you believe in Climate Change.  I hope we can all agree that air, water and ground pollution is a public health problem.  We as a community, need to become more engaged and talk to our elected leaders about our concerns.  The biggest changes will come at the government and industrial levels. We as a community, need to become more engaged and talk to our elected leaders about our concerns.  Get the contact information for them and email or call.  They do listen.

People in the United States consume everything at a higher rate per capita than anyone else in the world!  I would like people to rethink their consumer behavior.   Business gives us what we demand.  If we keep demanding things l

like single use water bottles, and other single use items (plates, cups, paper towels, K-Cups, napkins, single use cleaning supplies and more) that get thrown in our garbage, the problem will continue to grow. 

Personally, I believe it is critical that we continue to grow and develop our use of alternative energy and wean ourselves from oil, coal and natural gas.    In other counties around the world they are moving more quickly than we are to reach this goal.  We pride ourselves in being the country of innovators but we are dragging our feet to make these changes!!!  As a city, we are a part of the Prairie State Coal contract for years to come.   People, however can still install solar to their homes and make changes to make their homes more energy efficient.  Our family still decided to by a hybrid electric vehicle.   While we use energy mostly derived from coal,  the emissions from our car are significantly less that other cars and we hope that helps make a difference.

Batavia Environmental Commission Members
The Commission was officially formed in November, 2006 and is comprised of 5 appointed Batavia residents and 2 City staff members.

  • Carolyn Burnham
  • Abby Beck
  • Andrew Greenhagen
  • Byron Ritchason, City Staff
  • Andrea Podraza, City Staff
The mission of the Batavia Environmental Commission is to fulfill the role of environmental advisor, educator and motivator to City Government and the community at large. Specifically, the Commission shall act as a resource and advocate to:
  • City Government in developing internal policies and practices in an environmentally sensitive manner.
  • City Government as it approves and evaluates policies for standards for construction, waste disposal, business and industrial operations and other private sector activities consistent with the purpose of the Commission.
  • The community at large to help develop educational and informational programs to promote environmental awareness and behavior.
  • It is the work of the Environmental Commission to aide in fulfilling the city’s overall vision of claiming environmental stewardship as a cornerstone to our community’s way of life.
  • Ultimately, the Commission shall strive to establish a path that places Batavia as a regional leader in the protection, preservation, enhancement and restoration of our natural biodiversity and landscape.

May 09

Civil Engineer Andrea Podraza shapes Batavia's future

Posted on May 9, 2017 at 5:00 PM by Howard Chason

Andrea Podraza Photo 5.17

By the time Senior Civil Engineer Andrea Podraza (P.E.,CFM) reached high school, she knew her interests fit in the math and science category. She was also drawn to subjects such as architecture out of native curiosity toward how things fit together.

To research her course and career options, she attended an academic fair at the University of Illinois where a cousin attended college. There she visited an engineering open house to consider choices in engineering fields.

She chose civil engineering and enrolled at Purdue University. “The first year in engineering can be very difficult,” she relates “It tests you as a student and a person.”

She is one of three civil engineers who work for the City of Batavia and has taken the lead role in projects such as the Deerpath Road realignment and bridge reconstruction.

“That project required us to conform to current design standards and work closely with residents to meet local needs. That included working with residents to establish the safest routes in and out of neighborhoods. There were no sidewalks or bike paths for the old bridge, which was narrow and not pedestrian friendly for anyone to cross. After the project was completed, safety was improved immensely, and traffic flows much more smoothly."

Deerpath project planning

Deerpath originalA project such as the Deerpath road realignment requires years of planning to implement. “The bridge was federally funded using Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program (BRRP), money also known as the Surface Transportation Program (STP). Therefore the City had to follow the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) process. Following the IDOT process took eight years to get all necessary clearances and permits including the design of the bridge and construction. What the public sees in terms of actual work is a very narrow slice of everything that takes place over time.”

With the bridge complete, Andrea's attention is focused on the intersection of Deerpath and Main Street, which is targeted for a signal installation. “Or course, that takes planning too,” she observes. “Projects like that really qualify as regional improvements. So there are a lot of parties involved from a transportation perspective.” The City also received STP funds for this project with the City and Kane County Division of Transportation partnering together.  

Stormwater management

Stormy skiesPodraza is also helping to oversee major changes in how stormwater is gathered and treated in Batavia. “On the south side of town,” she relates, “stormwater and wastewater mix into the same system feeding into the wastewater treatment plant. That creates higher volume than is necessary for treatment. It can also result in backups if volume exceeds capacity in the systems that carry that water. We’re making plans to separate the two types of water. But much of the below-ground infrastructure dates from back in the early 1900s. It’s made of brick in some cases. That means it's really quite beautiful as a structure, but it isn’t designed for the water it now receives. I also report and organize our NPDES MS4 permit (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System."

Natural means

The flow of water through and above ground is of keen concern to civil engineers such as Andrea Podraza. But conventional thinking is not where many civil engineers dwell these days. “Many municipalities have begun to recognize the importance of natural features in containing and distributing stormwater,” she notes. Even with features such as water retention ponds built in key points throughout the city, water flow can wind up damaging culverts if not properly managed. Furthermore, it needs a place to soak in or slowly distribute once it reaches a retention zone.

“When retention ponds are not properly maintained,” she notes, “they can become compromised over time. We’re also concerned with the quality and function of the wetlands we do have, because they function best in holding and filtering stormwater. But when aggressive or invasive plants such as cattails take over and clog those systems, they don’t work like they should.”

That’s where the mind of a civil engineer really has to go to work calculating water volume and impacts of natural versus invasive plant species .


Sky above windmillBut the tasks aren’t all organic. “I do a number of other functions as well,” Podraza relates. “Accounting, budgeting, estimating. We have to manage what we set aside for every project and the timing of it. We deal with a lot of numbers, cost estimates. Then we need to communicate all that to our partners, contractors and the community.”

Podraza notes that the City of Batavia website is a key portal for people seeking information on civil engineering projects throughout town. “We update the website ourselves,” she shares. 

One of the challenges in transparency of information about city projects is found in the fact that engineering plans are often copyrighted by the engineering firms. “That means we can’t automatically share that information with the general public, even with a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request, but people are more than welcome to come into Public Works to view the plans for areas or projects of concern.”

She also notes that there are times when people contacting the department are surprised that she is one of the city’s engineers, not an administrative assistant or some other support function. “I know it’s a profession where there are more men than women,” she admits. “But it can be interesting when people assume that a woman can’t be doing this job.”

All corners of Batavia

Stormwater treatmentHer work takes her to all parts of the city. Recently she worked with a contractor, Applied Ecological Services, to burn Braeburn Marsh, while another contractor, Encap,  manages the channel leading west from Randall Road to the corporate limits.  The Braeburn Marsh retention pond and bird sanctuary is managed by the Kane County Forest Preserve District and the City works together with them to coordinate management efforts to make the system work the most efficiently. Together with its consultants, the city is looking at ways to keep aggressive cattail communities and phragmites (giant bulrushes) under check. Otherwise the flow of water may be impeded, resulting in blockages  or possible flooding.

It all hearkens back to that native desire to help make things fit together.  The City of Batavia has a problem solver on its side in the person of Andrea Podraza, senior civil engineer.

May 02

Batavia Community Band in tune with city events

Posted on May 2, 2017 at 4:39 PM by Christopher Cudworth

Batavia Community Band
The Batavia Community Band got its start in 2013 when former Batavia High School Band Director John Heath found himself fielding requests to form a music group that could play at City of Batavia functions. Now a group of dozens of musicians of all ages gathers to rehearse and prepare for performances.

The next scheduled date and kickoff to the summer season for the band is this weekend during the VFW Loyalty Day Community Picnic on Sunday, May 7 from 1:00-2:00 on the VFW grounds.   In lieu of a parade, citizens are invited to gather at the VFW on Route 25 south of Batavia for a day of eats, games, great music and community celebration.

Linda Schielke is the coordinator for the Batavia Community Band. “We’ll be playing some patriotic tunes, movie music, some marches and other favorite kinds of band music,” she notes. “We have exceptional musicians in our group. Everyone is a volunteer. No one makes money from performing. But we all love what we’re doing. That’s really what this is about--people who love making music.” Typically about three dozen musicians join for each performance. “We’re looking for some sax players, French horns and a couple percussionists,” she notes. “And we welcome every musician who wants to play. Some hadn’t picked up an instrument in quite a while before joining the community band. But people catch on again quickly. We also have retired band directors who play with the group, and that helps create quite an environment of support.”  

Schielke says the band gets requests to play at private functions, but the mission of the band and its main focus is Batavia community events. “Our six or seven dates per year are ideal,” she relates. Come fall the group even joins the Octoberfest fun on River Street. “We play polkas for that one,” she laughs. Other performances this year will include the Flag Day Ice Cream Social on June 11, 4th of July, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and the Celebration of Lights to kick off the holiday season the last Sunday night in November. 

This fall the group will also host its first ever “standalone” concert. The Batavia Community Band will be hosting their first “Concert in the Park” on Sunday, September 17th, from 3:00-4:15pm on the Batavia Riverwalk. The band hopes this will be the first of many band concerts on Sunday afternoons in beautiful downtown Batavia. These concerts will consist of music from many different genres, and will be enjoyable for young and old alike. Bring a lawn chair, blanket or just sit on the grass for a quiet afternoon of beautiful music down by the river.

Donations to the Batavia Community Band are gladly accepted to help offset the cost of new music at any time during the year. 

For more information, please email bataviacommunityband@gmail.com