D97 awaits village reaction to HQ site proposal

School board would like to know by Jan. 14

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

It's not an ultimatum.

Officials at Oak Park Elementary School District 97 insist an ultimatum was not their intent when they sent off a letter to the Village of Oak Park last month, concerning the possibility of a new school district headquarters being built on the land behind village hall.

D97 officials say they're looking for some indication from the village on where it stands on that idea, and whether the village thinks it's worth exploring. 

More specifically, they want to know if the village administration and trustees think the idea has benefits to both taxing bodies and the community. But the school district wants to hear that answer by Jan. 14 or the district will drop the village hall parking lot site from its options.   

But that is not an ultimatum, according D97.

Bob Spatz, the school board president, said the district isn't looking for a final decision from the village by that date. The district has other sites under consideration, including an offer from the Madison-Highland developers to be a tenant at that soon-to-be-built property.

As for the village hall parking lot, Spatz added, D97 is willing to move off that idea if the village doesn't think it will work. They just want an answer, one way or the other.

 "It definitely was not intended as an ultimatum but simply an effort to be transparent about the date, four weeks in the future, of likely, but not guaranteed, action by the District 97 board," Spatz said.

With the holidays, Spatz doesn't expect any formal or informal response from the village until the New Year at the earliest. D97 sent its letter to the village on Dec. 18.

In an interview with Wednesday Journal just a couple of days later, Village President Anan Abu-Taleb stressed the importance of the village and D97 working together to find a solution on relocating the administration headquarters. But it wouldn't be prudent, he added, for either side to walk away from an option that might be the best one in the long run.

"I can tell you for a fact that I respect everyone on the D97 board, and they work hard. But I don't like to put myself in a position to make a decision I haven't fully studied," Abu-Taleb said.

According to Spatz, "If the village believes there are, or may be, persuasive reasons, but needs more time to study them — and the village communicates the reasons and a timeline for the study — then that is new information the District 97 board will seriously consider before taking or delaying action on Jan. 14."

The D97 and village boards met publicly Dec. 14 to discuss the headquarters option, as well as the future of the Madison Street TIF. But the tightly run two-hour meeting at village hall included roughly an hour of public comment, mostly from neighbors opposed to building on the parking lot. The rest of that Saturday-morning session involved a Q&A from trustees to village administrators about the idea. Spatz also gave a presentation, which included other proposed sites D97 is considering. 

Spatz and other D97 board members noted there wasn't enough time at that session to get the kind of feedback from the village they were looking for. 

The potential impact of the Madison TIF on a new D97 headquarters was discussed Dec. 14, but very briefly, stemming from a question posed to village officials by Trustee Collette Lueck.

A potential deal struck between the two taxing bodies could involve swapping the parking lot land in exchange for money owed to D97 from the Madison TIF. But nothing was decided on that idea, nor did the two sides agree or finalize any decision on whether to continue pursuing the parking lot option.

Tim Inklebarger contributed to this story

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

Reader Comments

10 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

OPDad  

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 11:23 AM

It's almost as if there is a rebuttable presumption that D97 will have this building, and the residents of OP have to convince them otherwise. In reality, the burden of proof should sit with D97. We all know they don't see it that way. And hasn't the community been pretty clear on this? NO!!! And no no referenda and no more iPads.

clancy  

Posted: January 1st, 2014 2:29 PM

D97 sent the letter Dec 17th? Oh right, because everyone is so very productive between the 18th and the new year. Nice try but people are on to you D97.

Amy Williams  

Posted: December 31st, 2013 2:05 PM

Please, please, please let's put this lame idea out of its misery once and for all! Public comment at the 12/14 meeting should've sufficiently communicated that Oak Park does not support this waste of taxpayer money. If you haven't already done so, please sign the petition against this proposed project at: http://www.change.org/petitions/no-district-97-building-here

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: December 31st, 2013 1:42 PM

I worked out of office space at 1010 Lake with Pioneer Press for two years, and I can tell you parking is no where near as convenient as some people say it is. The lot adjacent to the 1010 building is, for some reason, not being rented out for parking. I think the county owns/controls it.

dystOPia from OP  

Posted: December 31st, 2013 1:14 PM

D97 board members Spatz and Tracyzk are accustomed to David Pope running interference for them in this type of meeting, droning on for hours until village board members eventually capitulate under duress of boredom. In the Dec. 14 meeting, they were not allowed that by Abu-Taleb, and they are not reacting like spoiled kids who didn't get their way.

Adam Smith  

Posted: December 31st, 2013 11:43 AM

I'm with Mr. Gump. Rent space at 1010 after you sell your existing building. There is absolutely no good reason why D97 needs to build new, especially in that location. Anan, et al, please put your business hat on and stop this madness once and for all.

Free Monry from No really it is Free Money  

Posted: December 31st, 2013 10:54 AM

A potential deal struck between the two taxing bodies could involve swapping the parking lot land in exchange for money owed to D97 from the Madison TIF. Quit stealling our real estte taxes. Get a clue from the High School.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: December 31st, 2013 9:27 AM

"The potential impact of the Madison TIF on a new D97 headquarters was discussed Dec. 14, but very briefly, stemming from a question posed to village officials by Trustee Collette Lueck." And the question still has not been answered.

Gump, Forest Gump  

Posted: December 31st, 2013 6:23 AM

I repeat: 1010 lake street has 23,000 sq ft space available for rent:http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/16091999/1010-Lake-Street-Oak-Park-IL/ Plenty of parking available in surrounding area, try and sell d97 building before buying/building another. Good luck with that after telling everyone how much the building sucks and the fact that there is tons of long vacant building/spaces currently available on madison.

Petulant Children  

Posted: December 31st, 2013 6:21 AM

The D97 board is now acting like a group of petulant children. They are running away from home..really they are, they are leaving now, if you don't stop them they will leave.. Okay they are leaving now. Don't worry, we will find them with their packed bags sitting on the corner, weeping because we don't love them. STOP IT! SUCK IT UP AND STAY IN YOUR BUILDING! DON"T SPEND MILLIONS YOU DON"T HAVE>>>UNLESS IT IS ON THE STUDENTS YOU SERVE.

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