OP, D97 to host joint meeting on new admin building

Officials say plans are merely conceptual at this point

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

District 97 and Village of Oak Park will host a joint public meeting next month to discuss D97's interest in building a new administration building on Oak Park Village Hall land.

D97 and the village have been in talks about building a new school district headquarters on land presently occupied by the village hall parking lot ever since the Park District of Oak Park backed out of a shared-building proposal with D97 in November 2012. The village hall parking lot was the desired site in that proposal.

The two taxing bodies are eying either Saturday, Dec. 7 or Saturday, Dec. 14 for the public meeting, which will include both boards. The two sides have set a Jan. 15, 2014 deadline to make a decision about moving forward on the project.

"We think that this roughly 75-day period will provide an important opportunity for the staffs of the schools and the village to be able to put together some comprehensive information so the two elected bodies can look at that, discuss it and interact with the community," said Oak Park Village Manager Cara Pavlicek.

Pavlicek made the formal request to D97 at the school district's Nov. 5 regular meeting. A small "working group" of D97 and village officials met Nov. 1, to hash out details about the project.

D97 board member Denise Sacks and school board President Bob Spatz are among that group, along with Village President Anan Abu-Taleb, Pavlicek and Oak Park Trustee Bob Tucker. The village's attorney was also part of the group.

The village and D97 plan to discuss a number of issues related to the administration building, Pavlicek said, including construction impacts to neighbors. The two sides also plan to talk about potential "service partnerships" between D97 and the village, Pavlicek said.

Both D97's and the village's space needs would be discussed, she said.

Oak Park police headquarters is located in the village hall basement, including a section underneath the parking lot. An administration building on the parking lot would impact the police space, Pavlicek noted.

The Madison TIF District will also be discussed at the December meeting, Pavlicek said.

D97 is due a scheduled TIF payment on Nov. 15, but the village wants to defer that payment until after Jan. 15, Pavlicek said, so both sides can discuss broader issues around the Madison TIF.

"I think beyond the physical issues, we want to ensure that staff can put together information to give you a long-term look at the financial impacts of various alternatives to the Madison TIF and what that does to the property tax levies of all the taxing bodies beyond the village and elementary school district," Pavlicek said.

Still, the idea of building on the parking lot rankles some neighbors in that area.

Residents Rick Boultinghouse and Amy Williams object to the plan. Opponents to the proposed project have established an anti-D97 building Facebook page and "say no" petition (www.facebook.com/NOD97BLDGHERE; www.tinyurl.com/NOD97BLDG).

Speaking at the D97 meeting last Tuesday, Williams and Boultinghouse both accused D97 of moving forward with the plan without getting community input.

"We are 1,000-percent against this project, and we will do everything in our power to let the rest of Oak Park know about it, and mobilizing whatever forces we need to oppose this," Williams said.

The two neighbors also accused D97 of "deception," saying that administration building plan is in the works despite repeated denials by district officials.

Speaking to Wednesday Journal on Wednesday, Spatz reiterated that D97 and village have only had "conceptual" discussions about the project.

"There are no architectural plans or drawings, but we have talked about some general ideas," Spatz said.

He added that the district's new architectural firm, STR Partners, has not been directed to draft any plans for new headquarters. This is in response to a claim made by neighbors that the firm is or has been working on the project.

Spatz said there's some misunderstanding among neighbors about what STR is doing. The firm, which was hired last summer, is currently doing a building capacity study for the schools, Spatz said, as well as an accessibility study at the buildings. STR is also exploring air-conditioning options for the schools.

Concerning the existing administration building at 970 Madison St., Spatz said STR is looking into how much it would cost to renovate that building.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

Reader Comments

18 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Amy Williams  

Posted: December 2nd, 2013 12:24 PM

I now have 18 x 24 NO D97 BLDG HERE yard signs if anyone would like one for their front yard - message me at poetgirl67@comcast.net and I can deliver to your home. Cost is $6.66 each if you are able to reimburse. We only have a few days left to spread the word about the 12/14 community forum...

Amy Williams  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 12:20 PM

Last night I went to the D97 meeting and had to wait over 3 hours to have my chance to speak for 3 minutes. One of the board members (can't remember which one) said something about how they get emails all the time from 50 or 100 people but that doesn't really reflect the views of "all of Oak Park." Let's show them they are wrong! Please encourage your friends and neighbors to sign the petition against this building at www.tinyurl.com/NOD97BLDG

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 18th, 2013 4:41 PM

Here is a link to tomorrow's meeting's agenda. Click on the date of the meeting, and you will be brought to a page with links to the simple agenda, and to the agenda packet (the agenda plus all the back up info). Location of the meeting is at the Admin building at 970 W. Madison. http://www.op97.org/board-of-education/Meeting-Packets.cfm

OP Res 253 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 18th, 2013 1:45 PM

I wonder why D97 does not offer babysitting services during their meetings. Each PTO does it, because we want participation of the cohort that consumes our services. I understand there are many stakeholder of the board, but D97's customers, by definition, have young children.

Amy Williams from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: November 18th, 2013 1:20 PM

There is a D97 Board Meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7pm -- it would be great if as many people as possible could attend

A. Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 10:19 AM

Hey District 97 admin., Dominick's on Lake Street is available after Dec. 31. Plenty of space and parking. Or perhaps the library Friends can hold their book sale there...

Downtown OP Resident  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 9:58 AM

The TIF racket is really something else, isn't it? Hard to track funds siphoned off of monies needed for basic governance. Buildings built with taxpayer money and when the time for basic services comes, "we don't have the money" because TIF hold taxes in place and shovel money toward those that shouldn't get it. Never understand why people buy the "TIF development brings in funds" propaganda.

Chris Williams from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2013 9:52 AM

I am looking into taking legal action against D97 if they decide to use TIF funds to build themselves a new building. The TIF law was designed to aid blighted areas - I believe this is illegal. Obviously we would need some pro bono assistance. Anyone interested? Email me at radioalpine@gmail.com

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 7:52 PM

I believe that what one must ask themselves is will a new multi-million dollar building for the D97 administrators improve our children's education, reduce the educational gap, provide taxpayers with additional resources for their kids? I would have to say NO to all this. Which leaves this decision solely for the purpose and benefit of D97 administration. Stand up and be counted at the Dec. 7th and 14th meetings.

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 6:13 PM

I just reviewed the D97 administrative staff on the D97 website, and I am not sure why an administrative building is even needed. If you remove all the position assistants and building-related staff, D97 staff is basically about a dozen employees who could easily be accommodated by leasing a small commercial office space. They have virtually no public contact, so the office could be located anywhere. New building? How about no building!

Bill Kopper from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 3:28 PM

Whoops. posted below by mistake. I would really like to know why, as the WJ puts it, "... the current D97 headquarters at Madison and Home is a wreck not worth investing in." In August WJ said that the current building could become "a therapeutic day school or pre-kindergarten program." if a new D97 HQ were built. Good enough for kids, but not good for administrators?

Bill Kopper from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 3:24 PM

I would really like to know why, as the WJ puts it, "... the current D97 headquarters at Madison and Home is a wreck not worth investing in." In August WJ said that the current building would become "a therapeutic day school or pre-kindergarten program." if the district bult a nethe new building "concept" group people in cubicles with common work areas like the taxpayers or are there some big offices for the board, supervisor and various staff? Why can't we make do with the current building?

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 1:35 PM

On top of all the other objections is the fact that TIF dollars taken from ALL our taxing bodies, are being held by an agreement between D97 and the Village perhaps illegally and certainly unethically. As 545 points out, there are plenty of empty buildings ON Madison. No need to go OFF Madison to encroach on residents.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 1:26 PM

545 - the reason they won't look at it is because it isn't "new", and "state of the art". Just like the public wotks building, which is "new" and "state of the art" - but has issues. I'm sure there isn't one board member that would care to be i a "used" building because they aren't going to go from one "used" building to another.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 12:22 PM

Today, there sits on Madison east of village hall the former CEDA property, which includes a large parking lot. Based on it's size, location, & the fact it's in receivership makes it a perfect candidate for D97. Why is no one talking about this property? It would revitalize a dormant stretch, free up the 900 block for private development, & save $$ for everyone. Hello??Ray? Cara? D97 Board??

Seen it all before  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 12:17 PM

The bundling of this with a TIF discussion is big red flag to me that a tit-for-tat deal is in the works similar to the one that resulted in the continuing financial catastrophe that is the OPRF parking structure. Looks like OP taxpayers will be paying for that via the "parking fund" even as OPRF tears it down to building their new pool. When will we learn that in OP, such intergovernmental agreements only mean a funding shell game to extract more funds from taxpayers with no accountability?

Chris Williams from Oak Park   

Posted: November 13th, 2013 12:06 PM

It is fairly clear that at least some members of the D97 Board really want a new administration building built near Village Hall. They claim there is no plan, but there is an informal plan. A new building when there are so many vacant properties on Madison? Does that make sense? Does it make sense to build a new building in a residential neighborhood that already has traffic issues related to Village Hall? I think not. Oak Parkers need to speak out about this - it makes no sense.

Amy Williams from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 11:26 AM

There's a list of reasons why this is a bad idea for OP, but what is especially galling is D97's arrogance to try to shove this down our throats yet again, knowing just how opposed the community was to it last fall when the plan was to share the bldg with the Park District, who had the sense to back out. Guess what, D97, the community is still opposed to this wasteful/short-sighted/pet project of yours. Any accident the 75-day review period is during the holidays when people are busiest? Hmm...

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