Trustees Vote To Divide Remaining Build America Bonds
Each district to receive about $750,000 each for summer infrastructure repair projects as Build American bonds come to an end.
Oak Lawn trustees voted to divide remaining funds for infrastructure improvements equally among the village’s six districts, delaying the traffic signalization project at Central Avenue and Southwest Highway indefinitely.
Following an appearance by Cook County Commissioner John Daley (11th District) at Tuesday’s village board meeting to clarify remarks made by another Oak Lawn trustee that the county no longer considered the project a priority, the village board postponed voting on the project until it could discuss allocating the remaining Build America bonds.
The village has until 2016 to utilize the available funds through Cook County, which would pick up 50 percent of the costs for adding a left turn lane to the intersection. The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.2 million.
“I’m just not prepared to vote on this yet,” Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) said in front of Commissioner Daley. “I don’t think anyone on this board disagrees that this is something that needs to be done.”
The traffic signalization project at Central Avenue and Southwest Highway has been a cause célèbre of Trustee Alex Olejniczak's (Dist. 2) who is up for reelection in April. Neighborhood residents have long complained about the accident-prone corner anchored on the southeast by St. Gerald Church and School, and for its close proximity to Oak Lawn Community High School.
The project had until recently, been approved by the Oak Lawn Village Board.
Approximately $8 million remains of the original $36 million in Build America bonds, most of which has been spent on an ambitious infrastructure improvement program, according to Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3) chair of the public works committee.
At the mayor’s request, $1 million has been set aside from the remainging funds for possibly expanding the Village Green and/or a senior wellness center at the former Beatty Lumber Company site at 52nd Avenue and 96th Street.
Another $2 million has been earmarked this summer for sewer maintenance and improvement, leaving approximately $4 million for 2013 street resurfacing and other infrastructural projects.
“Now we have to prioritize,” Streit said. “We feel it makes the most sense to divide [the remaining funds] equitably and is fair to all residents.”
Streit said each district would receive about $750,000 to use for infrastructure projects chosen and prioritized by village staff, not at the trustees’ whim.
“For the record, 75-percent of $2 million will be spent in Dist. 2 and Dist. 6,” Streit said of his former allies, Olejniczak and Tom Phelan. “I think we agree that alleys aren’t going to get [paved] this year.”
Lame-duck trustee Phelan (Dist. 6), who at the last village board meeting called the plan to divide the remaining dollars a recipe for disaster rife with political connotations, was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Trustee Cindy Trautsch (Dist. 1), running her own campaign for reelection in April, was out of town but participated in the meeting by speaker-phone.
Trustee Tom Duhig (Dist. 4), whose term is also up, said that the village should see through its original commitment to adding the left turn lane to Southwest Highway and Central Avenue.
“I just feel safety and security at the intersection should be put as a number one priority,” Duhig said. “I don’t think we should delay it. It’s a project long past due.”
Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) suggested that Duhig, feeling as he did, direct some of his district’s share to Olejniczak’s project.
Duhig countered that the six trustees could each direct $50,000 to the intersection project. Quinlan responded absolutely not.
“You’re not concerned with the safety of children,” Duhig asked her.
The mayor called Duhig out of order.
“That’s not really fair,” Heilmann said. “We all want Oak Lawn to be safe.”
“That’s absolutely out of order and inappropriate,” Quinlan said.
The village board voted 3-2 to approve the public works committee’s recommendation to disburse the remaining infrastructural funds equally among the village’s six districts. Olejniczak and Duhig were the dissenting votes.
After the meeting, Duhig called the public works committee’s move political and a way to punish rivals with the upcoming election.
“If Streit wanted it in his district, I’d have voted for it,” Duhig said.
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