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Municipal parking lots to see expanded use of new technology

Parking meters, in the traditional sense, are going by the wayside in Forest Park as four municipal lots are slated to be outfitted with a more modern system. At their Aug. 13 meeting, village council members approved the purchase of an automated collection system that’s expected to increase the level of convenience to motorists while boosting the village’s revenues.

Commuters who frequent lots 13A and 13B at the CTA Blue Line station may already be familiar with the new collection terminals, as one has been in use there for several months. The system allows customers to pay for their parking using cash, credit and debit cards.

A one-year deal with Total Parking Solutions that includes the purchase price for the new equipment, along with a service and maintenance contract at a cost to the village of $57,300, received unanimous approval from the council.

According to a memo to the council from Village Administrator Mike Sturino, parking revenues at the CTA station lots have increase by nearly 8 percent while the amount of manpower needed for enforcement and collections plummeted to five hours per week. Sturino estimated that some $10,000 in new revenue could be generated each year by installing the four additional terminals.

The four parking lots pegged for the new collection system are located immediately south of Madison Street between Desplaines Avenue and Harlem Avenue.

Federal grant to aid truck purchase

The Forest Park Fire Department is expecting a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that will be applied to the purchase of a new fire engine.

In the department’s monthly report submitted to village commissioners earlier this month, Chief Steve Glinke said the department received word from the federal office that the village was selected to receive the grant. For its part, the fire department is required to match 5 percent of the award. Estimates for a new fire engine range from $350,000 to $450,000, according to information provided by the Northwest Municipal Conference Suburban Purchasing Cooperative, the report said.

Bus service cuts

As the budget battle continues to be waged in Springfield, public transit officials are adjusting their timelines for a list of service cutbacks and fare hikes that they say could be avoided with funding from the state legislature.

A Pace spokesperson announced this month that bus fares for para-transit riders will increase to $3 on Sept. 1, but could go as high as $4 by the start of 2008 if no money is allocated to the transit agency by state lawmakers. It’s also expected that by Sept. 29, 23 different Pace routes will be eliminated all together. Weekend service in all areas is expected to cease on Jan. 1, 2008, if Pace does not receive an estimated $81 million needed to plug a budget shortfall. By Dec. 3, feeder routes to Metra rail lines are also expected to be cut.

Pace officials heard from approximately 70 local residents during a public hearing on the proposed cuts held last month at the Community Center. A complete list of expected changes to Pace’s bus service can be found at www.pacebus.com.

Condo conversion approved

Owners of a 40-unit apartment building on the corner of Adams Street and Desplaines Avenue got a green light from the village this month to convert the property into condos, downsizing the number of units to 23. On the recommendation of village staff to approve the necessary variations to the zoning code, commissioners signed off on the proposal Aug. 13 by a 4-1 vote.

A variance to begin working on the conversion for the legal non-conforming property was needed because the structure provides no off-street parking and does not meet setback requirements. Though those conditions are pre-existing and will not be changed by the renovation, the village is required to approve the proposal and as such, must revisit those zoning issues.

Greg Paulus, the managing partner for the property at 7542 Adams St., plans to construct 22 two-story units and one single-story unit that is handicapped-accessible.

Commissioner Rory Hoskins cast the council’s lone vote against the project, pointing to a need for more affordable housing in the village.

Internet safety

A free information session hosted by the Forest Park Middle School is open to parents and students interested in Internet safety. Presentations from the Illinois state’s attorney’s office will focus on cyber bullying, blogging, web predators and social networking sites.

The event will be held Wednesday, Aug. 29 at the middle school beginning at 6:30 p.m.