Oak Lawn Village Board members argued Tuesday whether an alley project was started without going through proper channels.
Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3) said he discovered by accident another alley project was about to begin that was not on the summer’s street and alley repair list, which the village board had approved in February.
Streit told the village board—and the Ch. 4 viewing audience—that he had learned about the estimated $125,000 alley project after talking to a field engineer on Oct. 10.
At the very least, the project should have gone back to the public works committee, which he chairs. Streit accused a fellow trustee—Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2)—of circumventing the village board to fix the alley between 53rd Court and 54th Avenue, between 93rd and 94th Streets. The alley runs through Olejniczak’s district, who is up for reelection next spring.
Striet also eluded that Village Manager Larry Deetjen may also have exceeded his $20,000 spending cap by authorizing the project. The alley was slated to have a new storm pipe installed.
“[Deetjen] did tell me essentially that Trustee Olejniczak had asked him repeatedly and forcefully to get this alley done,” Streit said. “First of all, to ask repeatedly and forcefully is abusing your power and position. No trustee should be able to demand how village funds are spent without board approval.”
Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) argued that her district continues to get the smallest slice of the annual street-and-alley-repair pie, about $550,000 compared to the $1.2 million Olejniczak’s district received in 2012.
“I just have a hard time that an alley is going to be done for $125,000-to- $135,000 add-on, when there is such a discrepancy of money that is being spent,” Quinlan said.
Traditionally, since the infrastructural program was implemented in 2007, if there is money leftover in the fund and the weather is good, the village has squeezed in extra streets and alleys, Deetjen explained.
The two alleys in Dist. 2 that were submitted to engineering, including the alley slated for repair, were held off the original 2012 list because of concerns over a shallow water main.
The village manager said it was within his authority to order the storm pipe because it was less than $12,000 and would be installed by village work crews rather than going out for bidding.
“That’s all there is to it,” Deetjen said. “I put it on the board agenda so you could make a decision.”
Olejniczak said that the summer’s alley and street repair program came in $600,000 under budget.
“If you have two [alleys] that went into engineering they’re the next to get done,” Olejniczak said. “I believe Mr. Streit had an extra alley done in his district last year that did not go before public works.”
Streit accused Olejniczak of spreading “misinformation” that wasn’t based in fact.
“The only [infrastructural repair] program that has any flex in it is the in-house [street repair] program,” Streit said. “There is no in-house alley program. And to suggest that we may do it because it’s likely to be done next year that it’s okay to do it this year, is absolutely false.”
Streit said beyond the fact that the alley project should have gone back to public works, raised a lot of other questions that deserved further inquiry.
"That’s something that I think we’ll continue to discuss and address,” Streit said.
Before village trustees took a vote, Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) asked when a new “contrived scandal committee” had been established.
The village board voted 4-3 to send the alley project back to the public works committee, with mayor being the tie-breaking vote. The dissenters were Phelan, Olejniczak and Trustee Tom Duhig (Dist. 4).
The day after the village board meeting, Olejniczak, who served on the public works committee for seven years before being bounced off told Patch the public works committee always squeezed in extra streets and alleys.
“It’s a great program that has added to the value of Oak Lawn, reduced flooding issues and make property values go up,” Olejniczak said. “How can it be turned into blatantly scandalous thing?”