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Oak Park Village Manager Tom Barwin's house will soon be up for sale, and not of his doing. That's because the home is owned by village hall, and local elected officials are looking to get out of the business of owning properties.
Barwin has been living in the two-bedroom, two-bath house on Lombard Avenue since he started working for Oak Park in 2006. It was supposed to be a temporary fix until he sold his former home in Michigan, but the economy tanked and selling his house took much longer than originally anticipated.
He has been paying rent to the village since April 2008 (currently $1,200 a month). But the village board appears set to put the property on the open market, loathe to play landlord anymore.
The village board's personnel committee met Monday night to start finalizing Barwin's annual employment agreement. That discussion includes whether the manager should be receiving a raise or bonus, according to Trustee Ray Johnson. Last March, the board gave Barwin favorable reviews, rewarding him with a $15,245 cash bonus and a 2.24-percent raise that would have boosted his base pay to $165,411. But Barwin asked that the incentives be deferred, since other village employees who aren't in unions haven't received pay boosts since 2008.
Johnson said the board was also set to start deciding what to do with Barwin's house on Monday. In a phone interview Tuesday morning, the manager said the home will be put on the market this spring or summer. He said the village needs to decide if it will be sold "as is" or if some repairs will be made before it is listed.
Barwin had hoped the board might wait until the real estate market improves before putting the house on the market. Johnson said he believes things have improved. He emphasized that Barwin can make an offer on the house if he chooses. Barwin said he and his wife like the Barrie Park neighborhood and that "moving is a huge energy consumer." But he said they would wait to see the listing price before deciding whether to bid on it.
When Barwin first came to Oak Park from Ferndale, Mich., he said he wanted to spend at least five years here, an anniversary he'll mark in August. He hasn't indicated any plans to leave after that milestone, saying he's having fun doing his job.
"Come hell or high water, I'm shooting for five years," he said. "I think it was an omen when the line didn't snap when I was being dropped into the sewer," he added, speaking of a recent excursion he made to check out an underground sewer pipe.
Johnson declined to comment on the specifics of Barwin's performance review but said he has been "appreciative" of the manager's efforts to address the village's budget problems during the recession.
Trustee Colette Lueck, who is also on the personnel committee, said she too supports the village putting the house on the market and wishes they had done it a long time ago. Village hall first bought the home, and several others in the area, in 2004 as part of the remediation of Barrie Park.
"We have no business owning a house," she said. "It's not appropriate for the board to own a house."
Village President David Pope, the third member of the personnel committee, declined comment since the matter is being discussed in a closed meeting.
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