Three years after joining the Village of Oak Park, manager Tom Barwin just recently sold his home in Ferndale, Mich. With that deal sealed, he may look to buy the village-owned home he’s been renting for more than a year.

But a trustee says Oak Park doesn’t plan to give the house away and might put it on the open market if the village board and the village manager can’t reach an agreement on price.

Barwin arrived in Oak Park in August 2006, after leaving a manager’s post in Ferndale, where he had been since 2000.

He hoped to sell his home in Ferndale, but sales kept falling through as buyers couldn’t get financing. However, Barwin was recently able to sell the home, which he bought 10 years ago for $95,000. In 2006, the year Barwin moved out the house, it was on the tax rolls for $175,000. But he sold for the original buying price of $95,000.

Barwin has been living in a village-owned, two-bedroom, two-bath house near Barrie Park since he came here. Oak Park bought the house, and several others in the area, in 2004 during remediation of contaminated soil at the park.

The village manager was to get the $343,636 home, rent-free, until he sold his home in Michigan. But when that didn’t happen quickly, in April 2008, Oak Park started charging Barwin $1,000 a month to rent the home. That amount was stepped up to about $1,200 this month.

Based on a positive performance appraisal for 2007-08, the village manager was to get a 10 percent, one-time cash bonus on his base pay – he earned $161,787 last year, according to the village treasurer’s report. But because of the economic environment, the money was instead applied to rent payments, Barwin said.

The village was responsible for covering Barwin’s rent up to $1,500 until he secured permanent housing, according to his employment agreement. In addition, Oak Park is on the hook for up to $10,000 in costs associated with the closing of his Michigan home and up to $5,000 associated with buying a permanent residence in Oak Park.

With his home now sold, the village board is negotiating a possible sale (or lease with an option to purchase) of the home, which is on the 1000 block of Lombard. The village is having appraisals of the home done this month, which should be complete by early September, according to Barwin.

Village trustee Ray Johnson says a deal with Barwin has been discussed in closed meetings, since it’s a personnel-related matter and involves the sale of village property. Village hall will put the house on the market if the board can’t agree on a price with Barwin. The final sale would need approval from the board in public.

“I think it’s fair to say potentially everything is on the table,” Johnson said.

Now tax exempt, the home would go back on the tax rolls if it were sold to Barwin. Money from the sale would go to pay off the debt Oak Park used to buy the Barrie Park-area homes.

Barwin’s employment agreement with the village expires at the end of this year, and the board will also need to decide whether to continue employing the manager.

“Me personally at this time, I don’t see a reason why we wouldn’t agree to an employment agreement for the year 2010,” Johnson said.

Barwin said he wants to honor his commitment to stay with Oak Park for at least five years.

“Actually, I’d like to get eight in, but it’s tough duty here. It really is,” he said. “It’s fun most days, but there are really some trying times. And this is a very trying economy right now.”


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