A vehicle turns left onto westbound Madison street while the light in red in Oak Park. | Alex Rogals

The Oak Park village board is set to vote to approve and accept its Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Oct. 18. In lieu of expecting Oak Park residents to peruse the 228-page planning document, Wednesday Journal asked Public Works Director John Wielebnicki to choose the plan’s five most critical projects for 2022.

“Just a caveat on all these projects: These are all subject to change,” Wielebnicki cautioned.

1.      Madison Street redevelopment and streetscaping

Come fiscal year 2022, the section of Madison Street between Oak Park Avenue and East Avenue will be getting a facelift. Already striped for the Madison Street Road Diet project, the area will receive such updates as new lighting, streetscaping, sidewalk enhancements and improved pedestrian crossings.

       The village purposely held off on doing work on this stretch of Madison Street until fiscal year 2022 to coincide with the construction of the American House/REDICO senior residential development and the new Pete’s Fresh Market location, located opposite each other on Madison Street.

       “We’re actually taking bids this fall so that construction can start in the spring,” said Wielebnicki. “Because there’s a lot of underground work.”

       Such underground work includes construction of a new water main which is expected to cost $1.1 million. The CIP plan lists the project’s total expenditures for 2022 at $5.18 million. The village intends to cover those costs using $1.6 million from tax increment financing (TIF) reserves, about $1.1 million from the village’s main CIP fund and $1.1 million from the village’s water and sewer fund. State infrastructure grant revenue will account for the remaining $1.3 million.

2.      Resurfacing of various streets

While listed in the CIP plan as “Resurfacing of Various Streets and Parking Lots,” this project does not include any work being done in parking areas, according to Wielebnicki.

“Parking has created their own resurfacing program, so it doesn’t really show up here,” he said. “It will be the same contract, but it just comes from different funding sources.”

       The funding sources that will cover the $2.28 in expenditures for 2022 include $400,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) revenue and $2.47 million from the village’s main CIP fund.

       Wielebnicki told Wednesday Journal the village is already out to bid on the project and the Public Works Department recently had its pre-construction meeting.

       The various streets within this project do not have their own individual pages in the wider CIP plan as only portions of the streets will undergo resurfacing.

“When we get into the more local residential streets, it’s just a block here, block there, there a couple of blocks in this part of town,” said Wielebnicki. “We can combine them all to just one project sheet.”

The Public Works Department is working on a map of the street areas that will be resurfaced through this project.

3.      Alley improvements

Wielebnicki confirmed that the majority of complaints received by the Public Works Department come from residents unhappy with the state of Oak Park’s alleys.

“Everybody uses their alley every day to get in and out of their driveway or garage,” said Wielebnicki.

When deciding which alleys need replacing, the department takes flooding into account. Older alleys have really poor drainage, so rainwater can fill up people’s yards, which presents a challenge for the department, according to Wielebnicki.

Alley reconstruction happens yearly in Oak Park. Total alley reconstruction expenditures for 2022 are projected at $1.67 million. To cover that cost, the village plans to use $400,000 in CDBG revenue and $475,000 in grant revenue from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. A debt service transfer of $800,000 will also go toward alley reconstruction.

4.      Residential water meter replacement

Water meters are used to keep track of how much water is used per household. The village purchases Lake Michigan water from the city of Chicago then sells it to Oak Park residents.

       “When we talk about water loss, we talk in terms of non-revenue water,” said Wielebnicki. “It’s the difference between how much we paid and how much we sold, so we’re never going to be at zero.”

While the village will never be able to account for every gallon purchased and sold, Wielebnicki told Wednesday Journal the village will ideally lose less than 12 percent of water.

“The villages non-revenue water is currently around 20 percent,” the public works director said.

Meters lose accuracy over time, according to Wielebnicki, and the meters in some Oak Park homes are more than 20 years old. Replacing residential water meters will allow the village to take more accurate readings and on a daily basis. Currently, the village is only able to read a third of the residential water meters per month.

“What happens sometimes is there’s water leaks, and we could read the meters today and then you develop a leak tomorrow,” said Wielebnicki. “And you might not know that for three months, until you get your next water bill and you’re going to go, ‘Whoa, what happened here!’”

Replacing the meters should help to prevent unwanted billing surprises, while allowing residents, as well as the village, to understand just how much water is being used per household compared to how much is being purchased from Chicago.

       Revenue from the village’s water and sewer fund will cover the 2022 costs of $2.3 million. 

5.      Flood mitigation improvements: Le Moyne Parkway

The Le Moyne Parkway sewer relief project was among a number of larger relief sewer projects identified in the village’s Combined Sewer System Master Plan Report, according to the CIP document.

       “We want to install a larger sewer to reduce flooding and sewer backups on Le Moyne Parkway from East Avenue to Edmer Avenue,” said Wielebnicki.

       Once installed, the larger sewer will relieve the undersized sewers on Fair Oaks Avenue, Elmwood Avenue, Rossell Avenue and Edmer Avenue, which are prone to backing up.

The project was meant to be tackled sooner but was deferred due to COVID-19. The village received a $500,000 grant for the project in June 2021. As the project is currently out for bid, Wielebnicki expects the work will begin in either late 2021 or early 2022. For the project’s 2022 costs, $750,000 will come out of the village’s water and sewer revenues and $375,000 will come from grant revenues.

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