Oak Park approves repairs to OPRF garage

Village to spend $370,000 to address deferred maintenance

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Board of Trustees on Sept. 18 approved a proposal to spend up to $370,000 for needed repairs to the parking garage used by Oak Park-River Forest High School.

The parking structure, located at 137 N. Scoville Ave., was long debated as a possible location for construction of a multi-million dollar swimming pool for the high school, but the proposal was defeated last year in a referendum vote.

Maintenance on the garage had been deferred for years while administrators worked to get approval to demolish the building.

Monica Sheehan, an Oak Park resident who advocated against the pool proposal, has urged the village over the last year to approve funding the needed maintenance on the garage.

At the village board meeting on Sept. 18, Sheehan asked the village to approve the repairs per its responsibility as outlined in an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the District 200 board for upkeep and landscaping.

"Both the village and District 200 school board have been negligent in upholding the responsibilities as outlined in the IGA; we do not live in a disposable society," she said. "It is unacceptable to build capital assets and fail to maintain them, yet that is exactly what has occurred."

Sheehan said that the elevator of the garage had been out of order for a year and a half, calling it a "safety and a liability issue."

She said taxpayers expect elected officials to be responsible with public money, and voters rejected a proposal to spend nearly $13 million to tear down the 13-year-old garage to make room for the pool and build a new garage.

"Authorizing $370,000, a fraction of the replacement costs, to address the deferred maintenance of the garage is the fiscally responsible course of action. Wasting $13 million in taxpayer dollars is not," Sheehan said.

The budget item was originally placed on the village board's consent agenda, meaning that it was not scheduled for discussion by board members, but it was placed on the regular agenda for discussion at the request of Trustee Dan Moroney.

"I just felt that in light of the high-profile nature of the issue a year ago with this garage and its future, it deserved more of a public discussion," he said.

Moroney said his yes vote on the repair funds represents "a clear commitment to this garage through 2028."

Moroney added that it would not make financial sense to repair the garage and then tear it down between now and 2028.

He added that "this garage is very expensive," noting that the village still owes $1.6 million on the principle of the bond used to build the garage and $160,000 in remaining interest payments.

The revenue from the garage has averaged $8,500 a year over the last three years, he said.

"I definitely would be interested in looking at innovative ways we could increase this revenue," he said. "I don't know if they exist, but if that's raising fees or upping enforcement or looking into installing a gate on the garage."

Trustee Deno Andrews echoed Moroney's statement, saying it's time to repair the garage. 

"It's an accessibility issue; it's a public safety issue," he said. "It's also just below our standards."

Andrews added that the garage has problems with accessibility. Andrews, who has a high school-age daughter, said he's been stuck in the garage for more than 30 minutes twice in a month.

"When there's a high school event and the garage is full, there's only one way out, and getting out onto Lake Street is very difficult," he said, adding that the village should try to figure out how to mitigate exit times at the garage. 

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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Jack Davidson  

Posted: September 22nd, 2017 2:12 AM

@Tom Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: September 20th, 2017 5:37 PM

Bridgett, OK its not hard to hire some inexpensive traffic control - OPRF can form a committee and discuss it for a few hours and get it together. . Or perhaps you can get the PTO to get some volunteers on it. It is chilling to think of people trapped for up to 30 minutes in their Volvo.

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: September 19th, 2017 11:24 PM

Tom, there is no reason why we should settle for it taking 30 minutes to get out of a two-story garage. That's just goofy. The issue is that when the high school is full of people in the evenings, like for Parent/Teacher conferences or performances in the Auditorium, there (currently) is no traffic control. So getting out of a garage, on to a one-way street (Scoville), leading to a busy street (Lake) at which you can only turn one way (West), with no traffic light, calls for some intervention. We have people out there in the mornings before school, directing traffic, and there are people during the Farmers Market directing traffic. It makes sense to have some traffic direction in the evenings when the garage is filled with residents, who all leave an event at the exact same time.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: September 19th, 2017 11:18 PM

And now its time that D200 live up to their end of the 2003 IGA agreement: maintenance of garage landscape and planters.

Tom MacMillan  

Posted: September 19th, 2017 10:07 PM

I remember when building this garage was being discussed. The overall consensus was that we just could not live with out it. So now we have it and of course it should be maintained. The revenues it draws are low only because they choose to not charge anything much of the time. And people complaining about being stuck for 30 minutes when they want to leave proves that it does get filled -- and those people would have had no place to park otherwise, or would have been walking for 15 minutes, so that is a non-issue.

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