Commissioner Marty Tellalian is the lone voice advancing an unpopular argument in Forest Park. This rookie council member has picked a tough fight with the mayor over a project that is very dear to Anthony Calderone’s heart. That project would be the YMCA and its coming move to Forest Park.
What’s more is that a piece of Tellalian’s case–a homemade video documenting a pivotal council meeting held Jan. 8–was provided by a local watchdog group that wins no favors with the mayor or the village administrator.
Before we explain why Tellalian does not deserve to be kicked to the fringe, let us say that we support the efforts to bring the YMCA to Forest Park. Profit was not the village’s motive for purchasing the land at 7824 Madison St. in 2001. The preservation of open space and the future public use of this land were worthwhile goals that have been reached with this deal.
And with finances in mind, let’s not forget that selling 7.7 acres of land to the West Cook YMCA for $4.3 million isn’t a bad deal. It more than covers the purchase price of $3.65 million, and the village still has some three acres in its pocket.
More importantly, the YMCA is prepared to invest some $20 million in this community where they expect to provide years of recreational opportunities. There are intrinsic returns that come with a development of this sort, making it an easy project to get excited about. Barring a violation of state law or terms that jeopardize the public’s interest, the mayor and others representing Forest Park are right to do what they can to push this deal through.
Which brings us back to Tellalian and his assertions that the village played fast and loose with appraising the land being sold to the YMCA. We’ve seen a lot of back tracking by public officials since the council voted 4-1 to put this deal in motion on Nov. 13. The public has heard that an appraisal that served as the foundation of this transaction never actually existed and that all along the value of the property was $5.3 million, not $4.6 million. We’ve been told that any statements regarding this phantom appraisal were made in error, and that they were even documented in error. And truly reaching for the absurd is that during a lengthy Jan. 8 discussion, these misstatements were repeated over and over again by numerous participants with no corrections offered up by the very folks now asking to be forgiven for these slips of the tongue.
Whether this was botched then or is being botched now brings us to the same conclusion: The integrity with which village hall functioned in this instance begs scrutiny.