D97, VOP joint meeting draws opposition concerning D97 headquarters

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Roughly 50 people attended the joint meeting Dec. 14 hosted by District 97 and Village of Oak Park trustees, primarily to oppose building any kind of school district headquarters on the Village Hall parking lot.

The Saturday morning public meeting at Village Hall, 123 Madison, lastly roughly 2 hours, including about an hour of public comments. Village Hall neighbors have opposed the idea of a D97 headquarters built in their neighborhood on the parking lot.

D97 officials Saturday said the Village Hall option was one of several options they're considering for a new headquarters.

Neighbors, however, said their area is already too congested parking-wise. They also oppose building an underground parking structure as part of the proposed plan. Aside from Village Hall, they argue that the area is a residential neighborhood and not a "government campus."

D97 officials said the parking lot option was first floated in 2006 as part of the Madison Street plan to revitalize that stretch of land -- a "civic campus" was noted in the plan to bring Oak Park municipalities together in one area.

Bob Spatz, president of the D97 school board, stressed that the parking lot idea did not generate from the school district. Spatz, though, added that D97 has been open to that idea but has never finalized a decision on it.

D97 and village trustees also discussed the Madison TIF and its potential implications on a D97 headquarters. 

Village CFO Craig Lesner said there's currently $7.5 million in the TIF with just under a million representing D97's portion. The other discussions Saturday surrounding the TIF involved its potential extension beyond its 2018 expiration. Extending the TIF could generate more development on Madison Street, Lesner explained.

Village trustees did not decide on a TIF extension at Saturday's joint meeting. They did agree to continue talks about that possibility starting in January. They also agreed by that time to finalize a decision concerning paying past due Madison TIF monies to D97 and other Oak Park taxing bodies. The taxing bodies are due surplus payments from fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

As for other locations other than parking lot, Spatz said the district has an offer from the developers of the Madison-Highlands project for D97 to be a tenant there. Spatz said the cost to build space there is around $5 to $6 million, and that the district is seriously considering that option. 101 Madison is also still on the table, Spatz said. That building, which needs renovating, also carries a large tax bill of more than $100,000 that would come off the tax roll if D97 moves there, Spatz noted. 

After the meeting, neighbor Chris Williams remained skeptical of the parking lot option, saying that an underground parking structure would cost more than the new building itself. Williams, who believes D97 is trying to deliberate in good faith, is open to D97 relocating along Madison in an existing vacant space, but not behind Village Hall.

Wednesday Journal will have more coverage of the joint meeting online and in next week's paper.

Reader Comments

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Done from Oak Park  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 4:38 PM

You said it perfectly. Both boards are in on this together so somehow they both end up looking good in what was a terrible idea. Both groups should be embarrassed to have gone through this.

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 12:58 PM

The idea is so outlandish, that Pres. Abu-Taleb should have never allowed it on the agenda. Which makes me suspect the village hall location is just a ruse, so as to allow D97's actual plan for a new admin bldg to gain acceptance as the compromise solution, rather than the fiscal scrutiny if proposed initially. This way, D97 board gets their very expensive and unnecessary legacy building, and looks good in the process. It is a quid pro quo deal from D97 supporting the village in the D200 lawsui

Tribune Headline from Oak Park  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 12:24 PM

From the Dec. 17th Chicago Tribune: Oak Park Elementary School District 97 has notified the village of Oak Park that the school district will drop a $10 million proposal to build new headquarters behind Village Hall if village officials will not publicly support the proposal. In a Dec. 17 letter to the village, the District 97 school board said it would withdraw its proposal without an affirmation from the village that the new building is "in the community's best interest."

Chris Williams from Oak Park  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 11:44 AM

Mind you - that's JUST for the underground parking, that does not include the building. My estimates for cost per parking space for underground lots comes from three different internet sources. I am not an expert on this issue, to be fair. Still . . . the insanity of this is blatant. i say round number, MINIMUM for underground parking - 4 million dollars. Then add the cost of the actual building on VH property. Total insanity.

Chris Williams from Oak Park   

Posted: December 20th, 2013 11:42 AM

A side note - the Village study session report, which is not clear, to say the least, assumes underground parking, a lot for either 180 cars or about 210 cars (depending on interpretation of report). Cost range for each underground spot is about $$15k - 25k. The 15k number brings us to 2.7 million. The $25k number brings us to $4.5 million. The $25k number is more realistic, for a few different reasons. So - the underground parking would cost MORE than renovating the current D97 building.

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 9:40 AM

Mr. Spatz's story on how the idea for the D97 bldg. to be located at village hall didn't come from D97, but rather the 2006 Madison St. Master Plan as part of a civic campus, is extraordinarily deceptive. The 479 page Plan mentions a civic campus just once, as a single line item listed amongst 34 development considerations. More telling, is of the several hundred responses gathered during public forums from village board, staff and residents, there was not a single comment about a civic campus.

john butch murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 6:52 PM

Done - board member Lueck questioned of the CFO to try to get a grasp alternatives. She wanted to know what would happen if the TIF funds held by the village was distributed to the taxing bodies. The answer is not pleasant to OPV. From what the CFO said, it appears that the village would have to come up with $3M that is not have in any budget. I suggest you read Ms. Paychak/Layman's letter from 10-13 -http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/10-15-2013/D97-needs-to-honor-TIF-agreement.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 4:09 PM

And Mr. Spatz, would you mind informing us taxpayers about the discussion at the closed door session that took place immediately after the joint meeting? After two hours of listening to the discussion, you all adjourn to a closed door meeting - something fishy going or am I just going down the wrong path? Not that I have any reason to believe that (snicker).

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 4:00 PM

Let's also not forget about the topic Collette Lueck raised at the end of the discussion about the TIF money - the discussion that was quickly stopped by Anan when, in my opinion, the discussion was going somewhere he didn't care for it to go. People who sat near me wanted to hear an answer to the question and I would like to ask that she raise the question again at the next meeting so it can be discussed further.

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 10:42 AM

Based on past experience with the new Public Works Center, which is now over-sized due to privatizing services, and the new OPRFHS parking garage, which largely remains empty while losing $945,000/year as the result, I would suggest D97 to proceed carefully with their proposal for a new admin building. Currently used by only 38 employees, I would first want to review a Space Needs Analysis based on 20-year employee projections, before spending more public funds on an over-sized new facility.


Posted: December 16th, 2013 6:53 PM

@James - you have a valid point, but I must add that it is only/overwhelmingly "insiders" that serve on OP boards. Period. This leads to the infamous "group-think" and that echo chamber leads to the D97 Bd/admin to honestly believe that they NEED to spend hard-earned money on a new admin bldg/underground parking - which leads to neighbors/citizens screaming "are you nuts?" and that leads to the Bd members being stunned - which leads to YOUR comment (and then my comment). Lather, rinse, repeat.


Posted: December 16th, 2013 4:00 PM

I like the option of sending d97 maintenance to the village's pw facility, and d97 rehabing their current maint building for admin. Would not that kind of keep the same taxation footprint on Madison? But I question why the business community thru their TIF taxation have to pay for the new d97 admin building. And lets get real people, d97 admin does need an improvement to their admin situation.

Tired of Taxes from Oak Park  

Posted: December 16th, 2013 3:33 PM

Comment away! I am sure VOP and District 97 will count the 40,000 residents who didn't come to the meeting as yes votes.

the nerve! from Oak Park  

Posted: December 16th, 2013 2:12 PM

Last I read, the admin building is closed from June 25 to August 29? That's when the Ipads were stolen.


Posted: December 16th, 2013 1:54 PM

Thank you D97& Vil.Pres. for deciding to support businesses on Madison St. Ending the 1995 TIF settlement agreement next yr. will let Madison St.businesses use the dollars in the TIF fund to fix the bldgs.& improve the bottom line. The charts from the mtg.,showed before the TIF ends, $10M will be given to businesses on Madison. The $5M from D97 & $5M from all the other govts.is much appreciated. Finally, the high taxes businesses pay in Oak Park will end up helping the Madison St. businesses.


Posted: December 16th, 2013 1:17 PM

Where is it written that government employees have some special right to parking? Everyone else has to handle this responsibility and expense on their own. Didn't we already learn about the boondoggle that is an underground garage from the library?

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: December 16th, 2013 10:50 AM

I think the OPV Board represented itself very well at Saturday's meeting. Board members added value to the discussion with well thought out questions and good proposals that could lead to a solution. I did not think D97 added much to meeting. The only board member to speak was the D97 President and his time at the mic revealed a whole lot of statistics and summaries of consultant reports. None of it was a path to a solution. Perhaps more input from the D97 board members was needed.


Posted: December 16th, 2013 8:41 AM

Hey Clancy, why don't you volunteer for one of the commissions or run for a board seat yourself? I would love to see your reaction after getting talked to by these "fine citizens". People seem to think they can act however they want to those people sitting behind that desk and you can't.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 15th, 2013 3:57 PM

I was at the meeting. I also agree with Chris Williams take on things. Aside from this, I do not agree with withholding AC for the building until the schools are all air conditioned. The students have to deal with days of heat, the administration has to deal with an entire summer. Let's be realistic here on some of these rants.


Posted: December 15th, 2013 3:14 PM

This is pretty easy; what the D97 Board and Village are proposing will take money, and they will ask for it via a referendum. When that happens, VOTE NO!

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: December 15th, 2013 1:07 PM

@ChrisWilliams ... as a negotiation ploy, D97 may be proposing the village hall site as a worst case scenario in order to get what they really desire, which is a new admin bldg. at existing site or elsewhere. A new bldg. would be a tough sell, as the public would be against a $10M new bldg. given D97 finances. But by scaring the public with an even worse scenario, a new bldg. at current site looks good as a 'compromise' scenario, and D97 looks good in the process. Hence Galen Gockel's comment.

Chris Williams from Oak Park  

Posted: December 15th, 2013 12:34 PM

Sorry, one last thing: I believe the board members were respectful and listened to us. I am confident that this group of reasonable adults will clearly see objective reality here. No reasonable person could possibly support spending $10 million plus on a new building for 38 people. It's just not possible for a reasonable person to support that.

Chris Williams  

Posted: December 15th, 2013 12:31 PM

The other side of this is the impact on the residents: it really would be a crazy travesty. Excavating an underground parking structure in a residential zoned district is clearly contrary to prudent urban planning. An underground parking structure would have to account for drainage and other extremely significant impacts on the land, not to mention the parking and traffic issues. THIS IS A RESIDENTIAL AREA! Come on local government - don't do this!

Chris Williams from Oak Park   

Posted: December 15th, 2013 12:29 PM

Good comments here. Many, many thanks to all the concerned citizens that spoke. There is obviously wide-spread and deep opposition to this project. At this point, I personally boil this issue down to a simple point, not necessarily related to TIFs: Why spend AT LEAST 10 million dollars on a combined building and legally required underground parking structure when they have great options in the $5 million range? That is the issue, put simply.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: December 15th, 2013 11:45 AM

The existing Admin. Bldg. is very simple construction that will last indefinitely, requiring only HVAC and interior finish replacement ($1.7M-2.8M), as does any building throughout its life. It houses only 38 employees in 20,000 SF, which already is more than enough space, w/ technology likely to reduce staff in the near future. It has very little public usage, as students and parents use the school buildings. D97 Board of Education: repair and maintain the Admin. Bldg., and focus on education.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 14th, 2013 10:56 PM

I reread my previous post after watching the video or the meeting this morning. It appears I misunderstood the TIF extension issue. At the same time, I think the involvement of the TIF by the lawyers, accountants and financiers has added a huge amount of complexity to the issues. A woman who spoke early in the public comments said, "Something doesn't sound right!" She is 100% correct. Very little of the two hours sounded right. The process to date, particularly the rash of numbers from both the OPV and D97 might be technically correct but they are useless to those that are not steeped in municipal financing. Galen was on the mark. The public confidence is being eroded. The dialog has hit the point that what should be reassuring statements from elected officials reduce trust rather than increase it. We are trying to talk big picture (strategic) while spending valuable hours fiddling with tactical issues. The Madison Tif balance (all of it) should be distributed to all the taxiing bodies and the TIF closed down. Ending the TIF is the only way the village is going to be able look forward rather than backwards. It might cost us some money to do that, but it will add the simplicity decision making needs. Kudos to the Village Manager, she added simplicity to a complex discussion. It was needed!


Posted: December 14th, 2013 8:03 PM

"We should welcome families into our school district in a building that represents the pride we have in our schools." So we can then send them on to actual schools built decades ago without proper cooling systems. Welcome to our district...don't get used to this fancy office though!

JB from Oak Park  

Posted: December 14th, 2013 7:14 PM

I was at the meeting and also found the board members to be respectful when listening to the comments. If you object to them running unopposed, then you have the option of running for election. The current school district office is not a good building. We should welcome families into our school district in a building that represents the pride we have in our schools. I may not always agree with village or school board members but I really do thank them for their service.


Posted: December 14th, 2013 6:54 PM

Look forward to seeing the goings on the village television. Imagine that others TiVo 'd it. If anything has been cut, please link it so we can see it all.

OP Resident #886 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 14th, 2013 6:40 PM

Clancy - that's exactly why I no longer waste my time on these meetings. I'm a happier person for skipping them. The trustees run unopposed in the elections so they realize that can do as they will with little risk of being voted out. They don't listen. They don't respond to the constituents. While I didn't attend this meeting, I've attended plenty where they were smug and disrespectful to those with dissenting views. Fortunately we're a great community despite these turkeys.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 14th, 2013 6:00 PM

I recognize that the board and staff have to consider all options re Madison, but throwing out a Madison St TIF extension trial balloon is a disgrace. The way to play the game is to show the residents the plan, and produce (documented) proof that commercial developers and prospective retail owners are interested in Madison. Then give the residents a sign that the board is working on reducing current debt and increasing reserves. With that completed, who knows perhaps the residents will consider another trip to TIF Hell.

Sarah from Oak Park  

Posted: December 14th, 2013 5:50 PM

I attended this meeting in person. While I am opposed to D97 building on the village hall parking lot, I thought all of the board members were very respectful today. It was a good meeting, and I came away feeling better about the process.

Violet Aura  

Posted: December 14th, 2013 5:13 PM

What is wrong with the building they've got right now?

Not a NIMBY  

Posted: December 14th, 2013 4:07 PM

I'm opposed to a new facility, but not based on where. The last thing parents want to see is cushy new offices for non-teaching employees when our kids go to outdated schools with substandard conditions.


Posted: December 14th, 2013 2:35 PM

My comment is better served in this column. Congrats to the concerned citizens who spoke out today. I watched the proceedings this morning on tv. I was aghast at the behavior of the elected officials. I hope they all watch themselves to see what the public saw. Body language (crossed arms), snickering off mic after someone spoke in opposition of the new building and showing general impatience with how many vocal concerned citizens had come out on a snowy morning. Kudos to all the fine citizens

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