Oak Park is spending like drunken sailors

Opinion: Columns

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Jack Crowe

The construction work is finished, the fences are down, and the plantings are almost all in. The redone Scoville Park is ready to be unveiled. And as near as I could tell by looking through the construction fence, the Park District of Oak Park has managed a rare feat: They have spent over a million dollars to make the park look exactly the way it did before spending all that money.

The new concrete sidewalks, the park benches, the tennis courts. It's all the same. If I didn't know better, I would have thought the contractors put up a fence, left town for a year and returned to take it down.

But on closer examination there is bang for the two mil. The corners of the park are now paved in "blue stone," which is a landscape industry term that means "expensive." It's the kind of material installed in front of sheeshee mansions in Lake Forest.

They also poured a pad of concrete to replace an old trailer bed that was stashed under a tree and served as makeshift stage for summer concerts. Me and a couple guys from the neighborhood could have poured that on a Saturday afternoon for a case of beer.

But that's how it rolls in Oak Park. Ridgeland Common is undergoing a similar transformation. Tens of millions is being spent to tear down one ice rink and rebuild it 10 feet wider, while preserving the 1960's roof of the existing building.

I hope they leave one thing alone. I really like the weathered nature of the Ridgeland pool. I swim laps there early mornings in the summer. It's a grand old 50-meter pool.

When I swim, I like to watch the cracks at the bottom and the texture left by 20 layers of baby blue marine paint. It's meditative. If they recoat the pool, can they do it in a historically accurate way to preserve the gnarliness?

Further down Lake Street, Aldi's is down and a big gym is rising in its wake. Plans are popping for a library lobby redo. The high school is reviewing its capital needs at the old campus.

So all is well in Oak Park. The excavators are excavating. Progress is occurring. And money is being spent that would make drunken sailors blush.

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Slim Pickens from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2013 9:16 PM

Whether the percentage of PD spending is 5% or 10% is irrelevant. The author of this article is reinforcing a valid point; that in hard economic times with property taxes at record levels, the village as a whole is not being conservative with spending. So the park looked a little scruffy.. so what? And yes it hurts that D200 hits us with a referendum while sitting on over a $120 mil surplus. But that doesn't exclude other village agencies from working to ease the burden on residents.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: May 31st, 2013 2:09 PM

no need to insult drunken sailors over the matter.

4 Freedom  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 12:53 PM

You know you live in Oak Park when the art teacher earns more than most chiefs of police.

OPRF Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 10:43 AM

This bemoaning of spending is misdirected at the PDOP. The PD is, at most, 5% of your total property tax bill. It has grown slightly due to the referendum & these projects, but remember that also led to the VOP ending an annual $1.4 M transfer to the PD. Where did that $$ go? The bulk of your tax bill (65%+) comes from the 2 school districts. Direct your angst there. The PD has for years operated within budget, & gets more $$ from user fees than property taxes. The PD also employs many teens.

Dan Hefner from Oak Park  

Posted: May 30th, 2013 9:19 AM

Gizmo Dog, It really does not matter, VOP, Library, School, Park District, they all spend money with little regard to the future. Oak Park is in a debt spiral and no one wants to curb spending. Residents are being taxed out of their homes. The Peoples Republic of Oak Park has serious monetary issues which must be addressed!!

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 8:07 PM

The different taxing bodies for Oak Park collect our taxes and then use them to pay for salaries, pension and lastly to repair or improve our community. The question is how many of these tax bodies have stayed within their budgets and how many have plunged us taxpayers into further debt for projects on which the funds do not exist. Which leads to the continual problem of increasing taxes to cover excess expenditure. So how much are we in hock now.


Posted: May 29th, 2013 7:05 PM

And what I'd love to know is why the Park District always pays to put in new grass/sod when they do park "improvements" and then watch them quickly become weed infected? Why not save a lot of money and just plant dandelions instead of sod? Would we save money and adopt the program in the River Forest parks? Or must we just keep up the lather/rinse/repeat of grass to weeds all the time?


Posted: May 29th, 2013 4:28 PM

Thank you for this article. I very much enjoyed reading it. I like when opinion pieces make me laugh, instead of make me mad. :)


Posted: May 29th, 2013 3:38 PM

Dan, take another look at the article the big spender here is the Park District, not Village Hall. Village Hall hasn't been the picture of fiscal restraint, just not this time.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 2:35 PM

The Scoville Park renovation was needed. It was looking a bit shabby. Parks are an important part of the village and need constant maintenance and at time the maintenance is extensive. The Park/Rec decided not to make drastic or dramatic changes, so its opening was not a WOW event. Good choice, the park is a landmark that can be improved but not radically changed. If excessive monies were spent on Scoville at the expense of the other village parks, there would be a right to scream. But all OP parks are cared for and maintained in the same manner. That enhances the village. To refuse a state grant that helps up maintain a historical and cultural asset would be reckless.

Dave Coulter  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 2:32 PM

A case of beer? I'd bid two six packs of Fat Tire : )

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 2:25 PM

The Scovill


Posted: May 29th, 2013 12:40 PM

Progress; Ye of little faith can't live with it. Don't you just love our republic where it takes 3 or 4 votes to keep "progress" in Oak Park.

You pay for what you get/want  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 10:17 AM

Jack, it is best that you inform yourself first before posting such a letter. The Scoville Park redo is done primarily with grant money from the state (which receives that money from home sales.) Ridgeland Common and the Gymnastics facility are being built because of the demand by the residents who use these facilities. They are also user based, meaning the majority of those people who use those facilities are the ones that pay for them (though not completely where the construction is concerned.

Dan Hefner from Oak Park  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 8:17 AM

Jack, Sailors spend their own money, whereas the rump-te-dumps In Village Hall use the taxpayer's money. These so called public servants love having their name engraved on plaques placed at their pet projects. Take a look at the new gymnastic facility, more waste put on the taxpayers backs. The VOP is broke yet these clowns spend like we are "in the chips".

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