Oak Park has been recommended for a grant to fund pavement markings and new signs to improve safety near schools with the hope that more parents will send their children to school on foot.

The grant, which the village will hear in November if it has received, would total more than $450,000 over two years. The village must match the grant with $56,507 each year, Village Manager Tom Barwin told the village board at its regular meeting last week.

“A lot of people are concerned about their children walking to school,” said Jill Juliano, the village transportation engineer. Improved safety cues for pedestrians and motorists hopefully will persuade parents to let their kids walk, “which is what we’re trying to encourage as a whole,” Juliano said.

More walking students means fewer cars on the road, reducing congestion.

The grant comes from the federally funded Chicago Area Transportation Study’s program for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality.

Juliano could not say when the safety improvements might be installed if the grant is approved.

Group bid could lower electric bill

The village will join with other west suburban municipalities this fall to see if it can restrain what likely will be a skyrocketing expense for electricity.

The village’s roughly $300,000 annual electric bill could rise by as much as 60 percent, administrators told the board last week. Joining a collaboration of municipalities that will hire a consultant to seek bids from alternate suppliers might lessen the jolt of the rising expense Commonwealth Edison has projected.

“They intend to bargain this hard with a large base in order to get a better price,” Village Atty. Ray Heise said.

The village’s only possible cost for the search would be $4,500, payable only if the consultant finds a service that is at least 3 percent lower than ComEd’s price and the village does not use that service, Heise said.

Cingular service to improve in DTOP

Cingular Wireless won preliminary approval last week to install three antennae atop the Medical Arts building, 715 Lake St.

The new antennae will improve service to Cingular customers in the Avenue, Downtown Oak Park, and generally in a roughly half-mile radius of the building, said John Wallace, a Cingular representative. Improved service will be especially noticeable inside buildings, he said.

Three other wireless carriers already have antennae atop the 10-story building.

Cingular will pay $30,000 annually (or $2,500 a month) to lease the space. The village requires lease rates from cellphone companies to determine property values for taxation purposes.

As part of the agreement, Cingular will need to delineate an area on the roof where radio frequency levels could exceed the Maximum Permissible Exposure limit “for the uncontrolled/general population” as defined by the Federal Communications Commission. That means that certain areas of the roof might be unsafe for people to walk through.

Wallace said projections show the limits would be exceeded only if all antennae from all four providers were operating at maximum usage.

Trustee Robert Milstein, who along with Trustee Martha Brock voted against accepting the Zoning Board of Appeals’ recommendation to approve Cingular’s special-use permit application, said he wanted to look into a moratorium on installing cellular towers, as the Village of Western Springs did in August.

Gay Games thanks

The village board was presented with an honorary medal for its help in facilitating the hosting of some Gay Games events in July.

“You guys showed support from day one,” said Rich Carollo, president and CEO of the Oak Park Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Carollo said the games brought 1,500 to 2,000 people to the village every day of the event, and that businesses and attractions reported sales increases of between 10 percent and 25 percent during the five days of the games.

New manager sworn in

New Village Manager Tom Barwin was sworn in at last week’s meeting, held Tuesday because of the Labor Day holiday on Monday.

Barwin said it was an “honor and a privilege” to be in Oak Park, which he’s been a fan of for “quite some time.” His first day on the job was Aug. 14.

A public party to welcome Barwin preceded the meeting and was catered by the new administrator’s professed favorite, Petersen’s Restaurant, Ice Cream Parlour and Sweet Shoppe.

-Drew Carter

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