Written by Bob Rakow
An Oak Lawn trustee says the village’s 2014 proposed street resurfacing plan is a slap to residents because it does not dedicate any money to her district.
“District 5 is getting zero dollars,” Trustee Carol Quinlan (5th) said at last week’s village board meeting. “I was stunned. That is unheard of.”
Quinlan was especially miffed that the 2014 resurfacing plan until recently included two alleys in the older parts of the village.
However, the alleys were put on hold at last Wednesday’s public works committee meeting. The move makes an additional $200,000 available for street resurfacing, said village engineer Jack Gallagher.
Village staff also recommended putting the resurfacing plan on hold until the weather breaks.
“After we have some thaw over the next couple weeks, public works staff will be reassessing the condition of the streets and revising the list,” Gallagher said. “One of the challenges of having a rough winter is that we don’t know how badly the streets were affected until things begin to thaw, which is usually the same time that we are working to get the design and bidding moving forward.”
But regardless of the village’s final plan, Quinlan said she expected at least some funds allocated to her district.
Initial plans call for the village to spend about $1.6 million on street resurfacing in 2014.
District 2 will receive the lion’s share of the money—about $1.3 million. District 1 is expected to get $108,000; District 3, $329,850, District 4, $188,000; and District 6, $305,000. Those numbers are subject to change as the village assesses the condition of streets, officials said.
The proposed allocations don’t make Quinlan happy.
“This is absolutely the worst,” she said. “This has never (happened) in six years. “In six years I have always been complaining about District 5 getting shortchanged. This is the first time I’ve had a big egg—zero.”
Quinlan, a vocal critic of Mayor Sandra Bury, refused to say whether the lack of funding was politically motivated.
“I’d like to think that that’s not the case,” she said.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) reiterated that the proposed street resurfacing budget is not etched in stone. Instead, he said, the plan is a recommendation from village staff and engineers based on need.
“I’m not going to sit there and debate (Quinlan) on what staff recommends,” Olejniczak said. “These are recommendations the public works committee brought up.”
But Quinlan staff recommendations are not the sole driver for which streets are repaired. Instead, she said, residents who complain the loudest often get their streets repaired first.
Olejniczak, chairman of the public works committee, said Quinlan should have attended the public works committee meeting if she disagreed with the recommendations. Trustees Tim Desmond and Mike Carberry also are members of the committee.
But Quinlan countered that there was no point in attending the committee meeting.
“I did not waste my time going to the public works committee meeting because every time I disagree with the board majority they always vote me down,” she said. “That’s why I decided to mention this at the board table where the entire board will hear my concerns.
“This is what happens every year. That is why I complain. I’m all about fair and I get that some of these streets are older, but zero. It just doesn’t sit well with me.”
Olejniczak added that Quinlan is suggesting that the lack of funding for her district is political.
“She’s not saying it, but she’s implying it,” Olejniczak said.
Quinlan countered saying that Olejniczak confirmed politics plays a role when he raised the issue. “If Alex even suggested that then this must be political,” she said.
This is not the first time Quinlan has complained about her district not receiving an equitable amount of funds for street resurfacing. In fact, she said last year that the district has been shortchanged since 2008.
When Quinlan was a member of the public works committee and the village board majority, she recommended that resurfacing funds be divided evenly among the village’s six districts.
That approach would ignore “streets that were severely at risk not being attended to,” Bury said.
“I was fair when I had the opportunity,” Quinlan said. “I didn't try to have all the money go into my district.”
She added that the village also plans to help fund the installation of turning lanes at Southwest Highway and Central Avenue, a project spearheaded by Olejniczak.
“Just more money for the 2nd District,” Quinlan said.