Village manager's Oak Park house going on market soon

Trustees want to get out of the landlord business

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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.

Reader Comments

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OP Resident  

Posted: April 28th, 2011 12:16 PM

Despite drawing a good salary, Barwin was strapped for cash. He was unable to sell a Michigan home & that limited his options. It should be noted that Oak Park's executive recruiting firm has not always done it's homework. A family friend who served on a screening committee several years ago told me they were never made aware that former VOP boss Allen Parker had a very questionable personal life and complicated money troubles. I knew Parker and can say he was one strange cat. Good riddance.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: April 28th, 2011 11:50 AM

@John Murtaugh ... not sure how subsidizing a rental house for the village manager is to be understood as an act of confidence in Barrie Park. Seems to me that Mr. Barwin agreed to live near Barrie Park only if he didn't have to incur the risk of purchasing property, and was significantly subsidized by the taxpayers. Perhaps if Mr. Barwin purchased a home in 2006 at full market value, that could be a seen as a meaningful act of confidence.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 28th, 2011 9:20 AM

We've had the rainiest April in 50 years. I hope Barwin's comment about "high water" is not a self-fufilling prophecy.


Posted: April 27th, 2011 10:05 PM

John Murtagh, I think Barwin should include your statement on his resume, if it isn't there already along with photos of him being lowered into the sewer.

Saul Passone  

Posted: April 27th, 2011 3:11 PM

I'm looking to buy a house in Oak Park. Can I pay Mr. Barwin with a few $25,000 checks?


Posted: April 27th, 2011 2:19 PM

Good. I quite agree that the village shouldn't be a landlord. Is $1200/month market rate for renting a house in Oak Park? That seems surprisingly low, but maybe rent prices have tanked along with home values.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 27th, 2011 11:49 AM

People forget that Barwin agreed to live near Barrie Park when people were afraid that it was still toxic. His public presence in Barrie Park had a strong influence on the lifestyle and real estate recovery in the neighborhood.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: April 27th, 2011 11:12 AM

@Patricia ... Mr. Barwin did not forego his $15,245 cash bonus or pay raise, he only deferred them. In the meantime, local taxpayers are subsidizing his housing costs, to the tune of about $800-1,000/month. Why are we providing subsidized housing to someone who makes $167,411, over twice the median income in OP? In the meantime, the village-owned property pays no property tax. Mr. Barwin's smiling photo captures the cat who swallowed the canary aspect of this story.

Steve from Oak Park  

Posted: April 27th, 2011 9:04 AM

Too bad the Comcast project isn't completed. He could have moved there.

Jon Donohue  

Posted: April 27th, 2011 8:18 AM

Since when did "local elected officials are looking to get out of the business of owning properties?" They have been in the business of owning properties for years. Also, Barwin only deferred his bonus, which he will eventually at some point in the future. It is easy for someone to forgo a bonus when they are making over $165,000 and their housing costs are only $1,200 per month. He has been living the good life for too long at the taxpayer expense. He should be fired.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 27th, 2011 12:40 AM

defer <> forgo

OP Resident  

Posted: April 26th, 2011 10:30 PM

The Village Manager is required to live in Oak Park. Tom Barwin draws an excellent salary. He should be able to find a very nice home in his price range. In fact, a friend who lives across the street from Village Hall and is looking to sell.


Posted: April 26th, 2011 10:29 PM

Actually I think it was very generous of the Village Board to give him that bonus considering he tried to bail out to Colorado incognito. Oh, and don't forget the $300,000 he paid a consultant without the approval of the Village Board.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 26th, 2011 10:23 PM

I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Barwin for forgoing his bonus to stand with his staff.


Posted: April 26th, 2011 10:18 PM

Glad to hear the Village is selling Barwin's house. Put the money from the sale back into the coffers. If Barwin doesn't have enough energy to move I bet there are alot of people willing to help him pack.

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