River Forest budget up more than 5 percent for '05-'06

? Board passes 4.25% raise for all staff, will discuss proposed "Friendly Streets" program at length next Monday evening.

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By BILL DWYER

The River Forest village board approved the 2005-06 budget at its meeting Monday night. At a total of $10,160,690, the new budget represents a 5.73 percent increase over last year.

The budget contains an increase in the cost of water purchased from the City of Chicago. Effective June 1, that rate will increase from $2.30 per 100 cubic feet to $2.45. It will increase again next year by another 15 cents per 100 cubic feet.

Part of the new budget involves a newly restructured set of ambulance fees. The rates for emergency service provided by the village was last set in 1988. The new fee structures, based on commonly accepted industry fee standards, divides participants into resident and non-resident categories.

Arts Council, Housing Center cut

Several small but notable changes are also included in the new budget. The board will notify both the Oak Park Area Arts Council and the Oak Park Regional Housing Center that it will fund them at last year's $3,000 level, then discontinue funding in next year's budget. They declined to provide any funding in this year's budget for the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation.

The board also discussed the proposed "Friendly Streets" program for some 30 minutes. The program proposal, which represents the work of Trustee Michael O'Connell and eight volunteers, as well as village staff over the past 15 months, seeks to reorganize and codify the village's approach to citizen concerns regarding neighborhood traffic management.

While generally praising the program and the effort that went into designing it, board members expressed a desire to more thoroughly explore the plan's many details.

"I would like to have us discuss this at another time, and discuss specific wording of specific sections, to see if I agree with it all," said Trustee Al Swanson. 

Village Administrator Charles Biondo then suggested making the program the sole agenda item at a Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting next Monday at 7:30 p.m., then schedule a vote on the issue at the April 25 village board meeting.

"I don't see the importance of rushing anything," agreed Trustee Nancy Dillon. "I'd like to go over it more. It's not that I'm against it." 

"The COW would make clear whether this board clearly understood the issues involved," agreed Trustee Barbara Graham.

Trustee O'Connell said he had no problem with that approach "as long as we continue the process."

The board also agreed to rescind the offer to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the Forest Preserves regarding River Forest granting Dominican University an easement across land needed for the construction of a driveway as part of a proposed western entrance along Thatcher Ave.

"Dominican University has determined that an easement is no longer necessary, and wishes the request to be withdrawn," Biondo wrote to board in a memo dated April 11.

According to Biondo, a letter will be sent to Cook County Board President John Stroger asking that the issue be placed on the County Board's meeting agenda.

Other developments

? For the second time in two weeks, the board denied, this time by a 4-2 vote, a zoning variance to build a two-car garage at the rear of 7911 Oak. The property's owner, Heidi Brunet, had filed for a variance to allow the garage on her property, which currently doesn't have one. The variance would have allowed 392 more square feet of ground coverage than is allowed by code.

"This is a tough call," said President Frank Paris, who urged trustees to grant the request. But Trustee Al Swanson reflected the opinion of the majority when he said, "If we don't adhere to standards in the building code, we won't have an enforceable code."

Other trustees termed the denial "a great injustice."

?  The board approved agreements with financial firm Kane McKenna Capital, Inc. and legal firm Cutter & Chapman to issue bonds for capital improvements at the River Forest Public Library.

Under the agreement, Kane McKenna Capital will be paid $15,000 to serve as the financial advisor in the village's plan to issue $510,000 in General Obligation Limited Tax Bonds. Cutter & Chapman will receive $3,500 for their legal services related to the bond issue.

? The board approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Cook County Forest Preserve that will allow the village to begin construction work on the East Entryway Project on Lake Street between Harlem Avenue and Bonnie Brae. The village had been waiting since January for approval of the project.

"We're probably 95 percent done with the drawings," Biondo told the board. "We want to get going."

? Biondo announced that the Village of Elmwood Park will formally become a part of the West Suburban Dispatch Center starting today. That village's involvement will continue to lower the costs for each of the WSDC's participants

? Biondo told the board he recently received and accepted the resignation of Zoning Board of Appeals chairman and Building and Zoning inspector Robert Caraher.

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