Sidewalks on Marion Street heat up at a hefty price for Oak Park

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

The frigid winter temperatures have hit. But there's a small strip of sidewalk in Oak Park you won't ever see touched by a shovel, plow or even salt.

Like any luxury, however, it comes at a cost. But it's a price you won't likely see Oak Park invest in again. Walking along the 100 block of North Marion Street, pedestrians and business owners have the benefit of heated bluestone slate sidewalks. After the 2007 completion of the street renovation, a $6 million project that consisted of granite curbs and an underground water-filtration system, Oak Park won an urban design landscape award.

Still, the cost of keeping the sidewalks going is steep.

Oak Park Public Works Director John Wielebnicki said the heated sidewalks cost roughly $25,000 a year, primarily because of electricity and maintenance. Having heated sidewalks is extremely helpful, he said, but it has since been determined to be too expensive. The 100 North Marion Street sidewalks will remain heated, but this won't become a trend.

Wielebnicki said the heat turns on and off, based on sensors that are programmed to automatically adjust for frost, snow and ice. A mat underneath the bluestone provides a signal to a central controller.

Public works crews, he said, routinely drive by to check that the sensors are working and aren't covered up. Sometimes nearby shoveling and snow can obscure the sensors and prevent the electricity from kicking in.

Overall, Wielebnicki said the heat is a perk, but future renovations probably won't include it.

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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Reader Comments

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Posted: January 29th, 2013 6:36 PM

Aren't they planning on re-naming Marion Street Pope Street when he steps down? Julie C. can be the Master of Ceremony. There is sure to be enough hot air there to melt the sidewalks and brick street.

Typical Oak Park  

Posted: January 29th, 2013 11:01 AM

I can't believe I am saying this but Les Goldman et al. were right to question the Village during the renovation of the streetscaping. Typical Oak Park to not plan for the cost to operate and maintain the sidewalk heating system. $25,000 seems outrageous considering the lack of snow for the last year and the the fact that the stone should only need to be warmed slightly above 32F. Maybe global warming will bail the Village out.


Posted: January 29th, 2013 3:12 AM

Great plan Julie! Now, will you be leading the pack?

Julie C  

Posted: January 26th, 2013 9:13 AM

I have a solution that is 110% free: have all these sensitive and mad-as-hell people who make reactionary comments on newspaper articles stand on the sidewalks and blast their hot air at the frost.


Posted: January 26th, 2013 3:29 AM

Maybe people should stop complaining about how much teachers get payed, and start holding the village accountable for all the money they waste on crap like heated sidewalks and the failed Madison st project.


Posted: January 25th, 2013 11:59 PM

Ridiculous. Read the story in the Oak Leaves about the recently built Public Works facility that is crumbling and will cost taxpayers over $500,000 dollars to repair. A crumbling Holley Court garage $$ ? and who knows what else we don't know about. Now is the time for change. I am voting for Anan Abu Taleb for Village President.


Posted: January 25th, 2013 11:11 PM

Making a place aesthetically pleasing is important to retaining the desire of a town, but heated sidewalks is beyond stupid, especially considering the already high taxes we pay. The tax burden falls on residents because Oak Park doesn't have any large companies that can taxed, so why would the village believe it to be responsible to throw money around like that when people are losing their homes due to being taxed out?


Posted: January 24th, 2013 12:10 PM

And we have a new contender for the "That Is So Oak Park" prize! Also, in contention: The Avenue garage (North Blvd by OP Ave). They spent thousands on solar panels on top--with big banners crowing about them to boot--but the electric wall heaters in the north stairwells haven't worked in a year.

Concerned taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 5:36 PM

Check out the article on D200 candidates. Several of them are hinting about an indoor pool. This was the same idea that Barb Langer was criticized for having. Seems the indoor pool idea is shared by more than Barb.

Concerned taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 5:33 PM

Think ahead to the new plan on Lake St. from Harlem to Euclid. They are surveying what you want. Everyone says this would be nice and that. Never do they tell you what the price for all those nice things will be. Then the village builds it and said this is what you wanted. Be careful what you wish for, you will pay for it.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 5:27 PM

Perhaps Trustee Ray Johnson can provide some factual information about what appears to be a questionable expenditure of tax dollars. Were the trustees aware that the heated sidewalks carried an annual fee of $25,000 and was that figure discussed and considered by the board member prior to approving the project? I don't recall any mention of a yearly cost of $25,000 being presented as part of the plan. Exactly how much of the charge relates to to power usage and what amount is budgeted for maintenance? Is the Village considering any measures to reduce these costs? If the heated sidewalks can be expected to be operable for another 10-40 years, the Village is going to be on the hook for some very significant costs.

Village Voice from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 5:07 PM

$25,000?! Isn't that about 6 months salary for a public works employee and about 1/3 of the total amount of raises they were striking over? Is the staff "development professional" who OK'd this expensive and wasteful design still around or did he move on after padding his resume with this "award winning" vanity project. I didn't support the strike, but if this is the kind of wasteful decision-making that village staff makes then the strikers may have had a point.

Matt Nordquist from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 4:50 PM

Well, OP res have some of the highest tax for the local library in the nation and they might not patron library services. likewise, folks w/ no children still gotta pay for schools for the common good. people who never drove in there life gotta pay for road maintenance, but this here is not so much for the common good

Keepn it Real  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 2:30 PM

Thanks for finding another way to waste my money. I dont even shop a Marion so why in the #*&& should i have to pay for it? HUH?

Matt Nordquist from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 10:58 AM

while the local marion merchants benefit, why should they incur a cost that the village imposed on them?. most the retailers would rather choose to have the 20 minutes shoveling choice. this winter so far might prove to have only a few shoveling events. if there were a sudden 6 feet snowfall, wouldn't make much diff anyway

Glad Pope is Leaving....  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 10:39 AM

I do not care how stupid or absolutely nuts the VMA's opponents are this year. I refuse to hold my nose and vote for VMA candidates again given the perpetual orgy of wasteful spending on downtown Oak Park.

Side effects  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 8:27 AM

Why is it that nobody saw all the side effects that would come from the Bricking of Marion? In addition to cost, the bricks are not smooth for bicycling, the bumpouts for business block the sidewalks, the street is too narrow for 2-way traffic plus parking so that cars frequently back up...yet here we are. Why not spend more money to rip the heated sidewalks up? That would be the Oak Park way!

Bill McClung from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 7:40 AM

Surely the consultant / contractor that thought up this project gave the cost/benefit analysis for the installation, running and maintenance to the Village prior to proceeding. Are the businesses / landlords not responsible for the running costs?...In other parts of the village the landlord/ business operator has to ensure cleared sidewalks at their own lets have the Marion Street owners / occupiers pay this tab.

Concerned taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 12:14 AM

Another waste of taxpayer money. Will it ever end?

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