Seven questions. Need answers

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

By Dec. 1, the three local government bodies — parks, elementary schools and village — contemplating a grand sharing of office space on Madison Street are due back with a fully-thought-out proposal on just why they want to spend $6-10 million to plant a new shared headquarters on the clotted village hall parking lot on Madison Street.

Regular readers might recall that I think this is the dumbest idea since the notion of capping the Ike from one end of town to the other was first floated. Same concern: It isn't all about us. Just because Oak Park is so-so special, we don't get everything we want and dream. If the past few years have taught us anything, it is that resources actually are limited and we ought to start acting like it.

So here are a few questions I'd like to see thoroughly answered by the schools, parks and village before they vote for the bloat of this crazy notion. And don't believe they won't.

Exactly how many employees are you building a headquarters for? The numbers we've reported are 15 for the parks, 40 for the schools. Round it up to 60, allow for future growth, though it's hard to imagine, but give us the precise number.

How big a building are you planning? This number just keeps floating by in the ether. Square footage ranges, so far, from 20,000 to 30,000 feet. That is a heck of a range. At 20,000 feet and 60 staffers, that would be 333 square feet per employee. It would be 500 square feet per fanny at 30,000 feet. Google about and you will find those numbers on the high side even allowing for common areas and, yes, maybe a government building needs more meeting rooms. But isn't attaching to village hall in part to allow sharing of the village's meeting spaces? In any case, all trends on space per employee point to shrinking spaces with some open space concepts now under 200 square feet for an actual staffer. And sure, superintendents and executive directors get more space.

What happens to the current park and school headquarters? They would be sold to meet the mythical demand for space on the largely empty Madison Street. But precisely what do competent real estate appraisals say each building would be worth? Demolished or repurposed?

What are the appraisals looking like on the best comparable available? That would be the old Volvo dealership on Madison which the village bought in 2004 for $1.5 million. Since the village hired David King and Associates to sell it off a year ago, I'd assume they've had it appraised. What's the current value? After a year on the market how many serious offers have there been?

Where's the parking solution? The village hall site is already full with visitors spilling onto side streets in a residential neighborhood. Are planners proposing underground parking? That's crazy expensive. How much per space? How many spaces?

Where's the traffic study? The intersection of Madison and Taylor is already difficult with Taylor jogging, four lanes of traffic on Madison and intense drive-thru traffic at the McDonald's.

Who's paying? One theory to pay for this shrine to intergovernmental unity is TIF dollars owed D97 from the Madison Street TIF. By any definition, these are locally generated property tax dollars and don't try to kid us on that score. If D97 gains revenues from the TIF, does state school aid go down? Prove that. What are the ways around this? Can you spend the TIF dollars on other essential capital projects in the schools? Or does it really have to stay on Madison Street. Prove that.

Sharing space makes all kinds of sense. Short of convincing answers to these questions, however, this version of sharing makes no sense.

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John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 12th, 2012 1:10 PM

ROI And Non- Profit Organizations - "Non-profit organizations exist to achieve social and/or religious goals. Some non-profit organizations are very effective and efficient at converting money into the achievement of their social and/or religious goals. Others are notoriously ineffective and inefficient. Although it is not always easy to measure social return on investment, it is important to develop measurable indicators that allow the non-profit organizations to assess their social return on investment." Source: "There are four basic ROI building blocks: Benefits, Metrics, Value, and Financial Formulas. When analyzing benefits, look at how the technology enhances programs or improves your services. Don't just focus on staff efficiency through reductions in cost or increased revenue, although those benefits are very important." Source: "What is the direct cost of the technology investment?" "What is the value of any expense or staff time savings?" "What is the value of intangible benefits?" "What is the cost of alternatives or not investing?" Source: Same as previous quote.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: October 12th, 2012 8:57 AM

I would add that a commercial building inspection (ak: property condition assessment) report for both existing buildings be posted online for public review. It has become common in OP to propose new public buildings based on 'aging' existing buildings that merely need routine repairs (such as a new roof) or suffer from deferred maintenance.

Laurel Saltzman from Oak Park  

Posted: October 11th, 2012 3:33 PM

Here's one more question: How can these three government bodies come up with $6-10 million but can't find $2 million for a new Irving School state-of-the-art play lot (that will benefit way more then just the school)? When is Irving School, with just a black-top, going to get it's fair share of supposedly equitably distributed funds. We just want some grass and a field, too!

Oak Parker from oak park  

Posted: October 10th, 2012 5:17 PM

The simple solution is to move the police department out of the basement and move the parks & D97 staff down there. The village can build a new police station on one of the tillion village owned properties so the 50 police vehicles would have somewhere to park. Since we have as many police cars as the City of Chicago, they need more room, lots more. Then the former sites can waste away just like the other empty spaces on Madison. I can't wait to move out of OP

A Realist from Oak Park  

Posted: October 10th, 2012 5:15 PM

Question 8: What's the ROI? Take the annual operating expenses of both organizations today. Compare them with the comparable expenses in the new building. Use real numbers, not political hogwash. What are the savings? Divide into the total costs--including the new parking garage that is surely part of the scheme. Do taxpayers see a payback in 12 years? 15 years? If its that long it is fiscally irresponsible. Taxpayers need to see some real numbers and some real savings.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 10th, 2012 2:08 PM

Good questions. Can't wait to hear the answers from the boards.

Taypayer from Oak Park  

Posted: October 10th, 2012 1:40 PM

Hmm, so Dan does care about traffic and parking issues. Interesting to note, this "development" would be in his neck of the woods. Too bad he doesn't feel the same way when oversized projects are proposed along the west end of Madison. Also, why is this in the "news articles" rather than the "opinion" section?

nothing to see here, move along  

Posted: October 10th, 2012 8:56 AM

Dan, outstanding questions. Why their isn't a bigger uproar/outrage about this is beyond me. Has anyone tried to park over at Village Hall lately, it is a mess. How about someone do a study on redoing village hall, their seems to be a lot of wasted space there, something could be done in lieu of building on the parking lot. For those who live near village hall, I feel for you when this happens, b/c knowing Oak Park this will be forced on us like everything else.

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