Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said resident seniors are getting “screwed by politics” regarding a proposed series of land exchanges and purchases that would lead to the development of a new senior center.
“It’s just a shame the seniors get screwed by politics, and I don’t think that’s right,” Bury said at Tuesday’s village board committee meeting. “People chose to make this sensational, and seniors are the ones who are losing. This was a great idea.”
The land exchanges and purchases involved the village, park district, Mancari’s auto dealership, 4630 W. 95th St., and St. Paul Lutheran Church, 4660 W. 94th St.
Under the terms of the proposal, St. Paul would sell a 61,740 square-foot parcel located adjacent to the church to Mancari’s, who would deed the property to the village. The village, in turn, would deed the property to the park district.
Mancari’s would then negotiate with the park district to purchase a 41,862 square-foot parcel located between the dealership and the Oak Lawn Ice Arena. The village would then negotiate with the park district and Mancari’s to secure the funds needed to build the senior center.
The agreement would give the park district additional open space and provide Mancari’s room to expand its landlocked dealership, Bury said.
Park district officials initially seemed open to the plan, but in a Jan. 23 memo to village manager Larry Deetjen, park district attorney Tom Farrell said the park board did not wish to have further discussions with the village concerning the senior center.
Bury said a lack of trust on the part of the park district led them to walk away from the deal.
“They don’t have a lot of trust,” Bury said. “I’m not sure they’re being honest, frankly, because when we answer any one of their objections they have other objections. Frankly, I think there’s political issues involved in it, which is unfortunate because it screwed the seniors yet again.”
Trustee Terry Vorderer, a former park district commissioner, said the district is willing to partner with the village to build a senior center but does not want to be told how to spend the money it receives from a land sale with Mancari’s.
“They’re opposed to the village telling them how to spend their money. They think the village ought to build the senior center,” Vorderer said.
Bury indicated her strong support for a new senior center shortly after she was elected. She proposed an idea whereby the park district would assume senior services, and a new center would be built in the shuttered Memorial Pool bathhouse near 103rd Street and Central Avenue.
Village seniors currently meet in a temporary location at the former McGugan Junior High.
Trustee Robert Streit was a vocal critic of the plan, saying seniors deserved better than a rehabbed pool bathhouse for their new facility. He also questioned if Bury and Trustee Alex Ojejniczak met secretly with park district officials to discuss the proposal.
Streit said he continues to support construction of a senior on the vacant Beatty Lumber property near the center of the village. The idea was first proposed by former Mayor David Heilmann as part of a partnership with Christ Medical Center.
“I think we ought to look at a place that we can build or that we have in the town center,” Streit said.
He added that the location at 103rd Street and Central Avenue is not well served by public transportation and is not near other important locations such as village hall and the library.