By TIM REILLY
At the January 9, 2013 Oak Lawn Village Board meeting there was a discussion about making improvements to sidewalks. Under the voluntary 50/50 program residents agree to pay half the cost of sidewalk repairs even though the sidewalks are publicly owned on village easement. One trustee proposed prioritizing the worst sidewalks and going ahead with repairs to minimize suits against the village regardless of the homeowner’s interest in having the work done. In the same discussions, District 4 trustee Tom Duhig proposed that the Village place a lien on property when an owner fails to contribute 50 percent of the sidewalk repair work.
I am astonished that a district trustee would propose initiating a formal legal process against residents that would potentially jeopardize their home ownership and credit rating over public sidewalk repairs that they may not even have initiated. To be fair, the village does place liens on property for lesser amounts; however, those situations typically involve unattended, foreclosed properties which requires the village to perform fix-ups or maintenance specifically on the owner’s private property. The lien is intended to recoup costs and force the owner to acknowledge ongoing responsibility for the property.
Mr. Duhig’s proposal is either an irresponsible statement demonstrating lack of understanding of the difference or a truly uncaring proposition demonstrating a complete disconnect with the community. Only a very small minority of Oak Lawn residents—if any—would agree with Mr. Duhig; thank God no other board members expressed any support for this at the meeting.
In most cases, the repairs involve having 4-5 sidewalk squares replaced and the homeowner’s share is a few hundred dollars. For this Mr. Duhig would place a lien on their home? The legal and administrative fees to execute this ill-conceived approach could easily outweigh the return; that is not to mention the insensitivity to homeowners of this bizarre proposal.
There are many seniors on fixed incomes. There are quite a few people out of work or underemployed. The economy has been weak and many responsible, hard-working homeowners are finding it difficult to pay their bills. Mr. Duhig is proposing to initiate legal proceedings against them if they are facing difficulty to help pay for repairing publicly owned property? I would trust village staff to reasonably manage this process without needing to apply such extreme measures. I could not disagree more with Trustee Duhig and I would guess that most residents share my belief on this issue.
Tim Reilly is a candidate for Oak Lawn Village trustee in the fourth district. Patch invites all candidates running for local offices to submit editorials and blog on Patch. For more information, contact the editor, Lorraine Swanson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.