Storm damage uproots Oak Park's emergency storm budget

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

The tree cleanup efforts after the brief, but powerful storm that swept through Oak Park late last month has some residents stumped.

The storm, which lasted less than 15 minutes, caused its share of damage as it tore trees from the ground, created a mess of branches and knocked out power. But it was the aftermath that caused a stir with some residents.

It's one problem, however, that the village says will persist because of budget constraints.

Public Works Director John Wielebnicki told the village board last week that after a storm hits, the village first clears the streets and then moves onto cleaning up fallen parkway trees. And while the village does offer brush debris removal services for residents, taking care of trees and limbs which have fallen on private property must be left to the expense of the homeowner.

The main reason for this, like most decisions in the village, is financial, Wielebnicki said. In fact, the recent storm already has Oak Park's emergency storm budget maxed out.

Oak Park's 2013 budget allocates $100,000 for emergency storm cleanup and $400,000 for tree removal. But that tree removal budget is typically taken up by tackling the emerald ash borer issue still prevalent in the area.

As of July 1, Oak Park had spent 70 percent of its emergency storm response budget and Wielebnicki anticipated the budget to be wiped out before the week ended.

Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said the village has received a handful of inquiries from upset residents wondering why the village is sifting through which trees belong to the village and which trees belong to private residents. Unfortunately, she said, it's a policy the village must financially stick to right now.

"It is really tough," she said. "This is what we budget for — the trees we own."

Pavlicek said based on the type of tree, when it was placed on the parkway, and how dry the leaves are, the village forestry experts are able to determine who the tree belongs to. If a parkway tree and a resident-owned tree fall near each other, there's a good chance the village is picking up both. Still, policy dictates to only pick up village-owned parkway trees.

While the system isn't perfect, Pavlicek said it's all the village can tackle unless staff and the village board decide to amend the budget and change its emergency storm removal process. Because the village's budget hardly covered its own trees, extending the services to residents isn't currently feasible with the budget structure established.

Pavlicek said it doesn't mean the system won't ever change, but currently it's a policy the village must follow.

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

11 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy


Posted: July 21st, 2013 6:02 PM

The employees don't make the decisions regarding how the work is to be done. They do as they are told. Privatization has proven to be unreliable, more expensive and have a lower quality of work. It looks good on paper but not in reality.

DrJ from Oak Park  

Posted: July 17th, 2013 12:57 PM

The village department of public works ran an end loader down north Elmwood and created a barrier of trees (yes some of them parkway trees some not). Now we have a traffic hazard made by one village department that cannot afford to correct their own error. One accident has already occurred. Cant wait to see if Oak Park has enough money in attorney fees and liability insurance to pay for property and personal damage caused by their own lack of forethought.

Rich from Schurr  

Posted: July 16th, 2013 2:51 PM

500 characters, hmm. I'll send the rest to Dan

Rich Schurr  

Posted: July 16th, 2013 2:49 PM

There is a simple, effective solution to this and many other problems faced by the Village: Privatization. Eliminate the Forestry department, sell the trucks, and fire the employees. Contract the work out to private firms that undergo competitive bidding and have performance clauses in their contract. I have observed many examples of the incompetence and inefficiencies of Village "services" including the Forestry department. Just a few examples: 1. The Village conducts a regular cycle of p

Bamboozled from Oak Park  

Posted: July 16th, 2013 12:07 PM

Good point puzzled. How many millions are we still paying off for the parking structure the village gifted to OPRF to provide free parking for the $100,000 teachers there? Enough to cover 20+ years of storm clean-up? Another past decision that was essentially a shell game to transfer more village funds to supporting D200 and less to essential services for residents.


Posted: July 15th, 2013 11:54 PM

The Village of Oak Park had a real forestry department with over a dozen employees who did an excellent job of maintaining the trees in the village and clearing storm debris. Now outside contractors are given the bulk of the work and our forestry department only has a few employees. How much money is the village really saving by using outside contractors? At what cost of services to the villagers? The village continues to have an over abundance of supervisors and managers for fewer employee

Scottie Ash tree Seed  

Posted: July 14th, 2013 4:05 PM

Why do trees that mother nature designed to survive 100 mile winds literally fall apart from 65-75 ones. Look where the branches ripped off and you will see enough rot from years of tree trimming wounds not closing correctly. The imported Norway & native Silver Maple types should only get lite branch trimming when older, and trees with faulty crotch problems taken care of when young. Damage on old Elms needs to be addressed THIS winter before they get DEDii Fungus. Bee's wax & Citrus x-tract!

puzzled from oak park  

Posted: July 12th, 2013 7:34 AM

We have a leed certified parking garage that cost $40 million. But no employees to help pick up tree debris within two weeks after a relatively minor storm. What is the plan if a major storm hits? I understand these are decisions made in past administrations. But this is just bad management. You can't just leave piles of tree debris for two weeks. Let's go! Get this stuff cleaned up. It's embarrassing.


Posted: July 12th, 2013 1:08 AM


They're gonna cause an accident  

Posted: July 10th, 2013 11:42 AM

Who's gonna let the people know that they have to remove these trees that have been in the streets going on 2 weeks now? Especially North Elmwood area?

June from Oak Park  

Posted: July 10th, 2013 10:48 AM

I guess that explains why a fallen tree that was blocking an alley for several days wasn't removed by the village because it fell from private property

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad