For as much as he is involved in the Kendall County community, Peter Wallers didn’t always know he had a calling for civil engineering.
Wallers – a Montgomery resident, a member of the village’s economic development corporation and president and CEO of Engineering Enterprises Inc. – knew he wanted to be some sort of engineer when he attended Marquette University in the 1970s. As he got closer to the end of his civil engineering degree program, he learned he liked working with communities to help them plan for the future.
“That was the real fun part for me,” Wallers said. “And I still enjoy that part of engineering, trying to figure out how to accomplish a project and how to solve a problem in the community.”
A longtime economic development leader in Kendall County, Wallers recently joined the Corporate Advisory Board of Shaw Media Illinois, a group of professional leaders from around northern Illinois who are helping to advise the company.
Wallers began his career after college by helping farmers reuse wastewater in their irrigation systems in the southwest part of the country. In 1977, he joined Sugar Grove-based EEI, three years after the civil engineering firm was founded.
In EEI’s beginning, Wallers said, small communities made up much of the firm’s client base. He said the firm worked to help those clients solve problems, whether they were civil engineering-related or even helping them partner with others who could provide advice, such as grant consultants.
EEI continues to serve many of those small communities today.
“I think that gave us kind of a unique perspective in terms of understanding that it wasn’t just about providing engineering services,” Wallers said.
Wallers said Kendall County’s rapid population growth over the past three decades has created challenges with traffic congestion and other infrastructure issues.
He said one of the things EEI started to impress upon communities about 15 years ago was the need to prepare pavement management plans, which meant rating the condition of every street in the community and then determining how much money was needed to improve the local roadway network.
“By doing that in kind of a comprehensive manner, you’re able to spend a lot of resources most effectively,” Wallers said.
Wallers said water conservation is another challenge area communities must address. For example, he pointed to studies showing the deep well aquifers that provide water for Oswego, Montgomery, Yorkville and other Fox Valley communities as becoming depleted.
The challenge for local communities will be to reduce water consumption while working to secure alternate water sources such as Lake Michigan or the Fox River, he said.
Wallers said the firm also conducts watershed studies such as ones for Waubonsie Creek and Blackberry Creek after “a millennial storm” in July 1996 that dumped about 17 inches of rain on the lower Fox Valley area in 24 hours.
The resultant flooding caused millions of dollars in property damage and prompted Federal Emergency Management Agency to buy and demolish more than 30 homes in Montgomery that had been built in the Waubonsie Creek floodplain.
Wallers said the study led to recommendations for more restrictive stormwater management policies by area municipalities to guard against future flooding.
The flood was “a tragic event, but the outcome I think was good, that there was more awareness on flooding,” Wallers said.
Wallers said those issues continue to be at the forefront of challenges for civil engineering firms such as EEI, with climate change bringing in more rainwater to the area as well.
In addition to its professional services, EEI also donates space and utilities to help store food for the Just Between Friends Food Pantry and hosts an aluminum boat challenge to get area fifth graders interested in engineering. The challenge has students compete to design a boat that can float while carrying the most weight.
Wallers also serves on the advisory board for the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry, the Oswego Public Library District Board of Trustees and the board of directors for the Montgomery Foundation, a philanthropic organization that helps provide grant funding for programs and services that directly impact Montgomery area citizens.
Wallers said he always felt it was important to give back to the community, especially because he and the firm are able to ensure those who are less fortunate have the things they need to get by.
“If you can do a little to help that, or to give back to the community, I just think there’s really an obligation to do that,” Wallers said.
Source: The Daily Chronicle