The village managers of Forest Park and Oak Park are meeting this week to try and resolve a dispute over unpaid bills. Oak Park claims that Forest Park owes $70,000 to the West Suburban Dispatch Center, a 911 center whose equipment helps Forest Park police communications.
“Our records indicate Forest Park should owe approximately $70,000 to the West Suburban Dispatch Association,” Oak Park Village Manager Tom Barwin said.
The dispatch center serves Oak Park, River Forest, and Elmwood Park by providing a central location for 911 calls. It also helps maintain equipment, primarily repeaters that Forest Park needs for clear police communications.
Barwin said that Forest Park has not yet paid its share of the cost for the repeaters and other technological improvements.
But Village Administrator Michael Sturino said that he was caught off guard when, according to a published report, Oak Park was refusing to pay its share of the cost of an engineering study to renovate the Harlem Avenue viaduct until Forest Park paid the outstanding debt.
Barwin said that Oak Park was merely holding off on a paying its portion of a study on the possibility of moving Circle Avenue north so that it aligns with South Boulevard in Oak Park at Harlem.
Sturino said that he received information about Forest Park’s share of the West Suburban Dispatch cost a year ago, but that he requested more information and got no response until last week.
“We got a letter last February,” Sturino said. “I responded immediately to the letter and asked for additional information. We received a letter yesterday. We’re poring through it. I don’t know if there’s more [information] we need because we just got it.”
Sturino said he has an obligation to the taxpayers of Forest Park to make sure that the village is in fact responsible for the amount Barwin claims is owed.
“We’re examining it now,” Sturino said. “They’re claiming there was some sort of an agreement many years ago.”
Oak Park would also like to be compensated for agreeing to lend its fire department as a backup to Forest Park’s when the local firefighters are busy providing contracted service to the Hines VA Hospital. Barwin said that in discussions between the fire chiefs and other staff, Forest Park offered to pay Oak Park $20,000 for providing backup.
“We were prepared to accept that nine months to a year ago,” Barwin said.
Not so fast, says Sturino.
Sturino says that while the $20,000 figure may have been bandied about between staff members, neither he nor the village council ever committed to pay that amount.
“There was never an agreement,” Sturino said. “It was thrown out there as a number, but I never adopted that number and certainly it didn’t get past me to the village council.”
Since Forest Park entered into the agreement to provide service to the Hines facility, the Oak Park Fire Department has never been called on to provide any supplementary services, according to Oak Park Fire Chief William Bell.
Sturino said he would like to figure out a fair way to resolve the issue. He may agree to pay Oak Park a yearly fee or a set amount each time their firefighters are called on.
“It’s just a matter of tidying up some loose ends,” Barwin said.