Village board green lights new Public Works Center

? Trustees will vote on issuing $12 million in bonds this year; construction to begin by the end of July.

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By KATHARINE GRAYSON

Where on July 31 last year a garage was being swallowed in flames, Oak Park can expect this year to see ground break for a new $20 million 178,000-square-foot Public Works Center.

At a meeting Monday, the village board agreed to move forward with issuing $12 million in bonds to pay for the first phase of construction.

An aggressive schedule is expected to result in work beginning at the existing Public Works site, 121-131 South Boulevard, by the anniversary of last year's fire.

Village Attorney Ray Heise said Monday if construction does not begin by the end of July, and wrap up by the same time in 2006, the village can "reasonably expect issues will be raised" by its insurance provider.

"If we get into a timeframe where they believe it should have been built, we'll have problems with our coverage," he said, adding that a significant delay may mean the village will receive reduced compensation for the loss.

Though it's likely that the village board will vote to issue bonds for the project this year, the building's ultimate price tag is uncertain. Village staff is projecting that the board will have to issue an additional $10 million in bonds next year to pay for the balance of the project.

That figure does not account money the village will receive from its insurer, or still unknown environmental remediation expenses.

However, the estimated two-year bond issue of $24 million?#34;$2 million of which will go toward the resurfacing of Madison Street?#34;is expected to result in a 1.53 percent increase in the village's portion of the property tax levy, which is roughly 12 percent of a total property tax bill. For instance, the owner of a $400,000 home would pay an additional $25 in 2006. The bond issue will also result in mostly small, but steady increases in the village's tax rate.

To get the project underway as quickly as possible, the village is looking to hire a construction management firm. The facility would be completed in phases, much the same way as Oak Park's middle schools were constructed. Construction would take roughly 15 months.

The project's basic design has changed little since it was last presented to neighbors in December. The existing South Boulevard building would be razed and replaced with a new facility featuring an underground work and vehicle storage area.

Delivery and loading of road salt will take place in an enclosed area.

The fueling station in front of the building would be covered, and there would be only two entry ways into the facility.

The building would be three stories at its highest point. The upper story would house office space. 

Trustees will vote on issuing bonds and to hire a construction management firm in the coming months.

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