An ambitious 2009 construction schedule is in a precarious position after village officials weren’t able to get a slice of the pie this month when federal dollars were divvyed up among area towns.
In all, there are nine projects expected to begin in the coming months in Forest Park. The two biggest projects are the reconstruction of Harvard and Jackson streets, and some $3.04 million in federal grants will cover the bulk of the costs. Delaying that work would force the village to forfeit the grants, and council members have said they don’t want to see that happen.
But it is precisely because Forest Park is already getting federal money for these projects that it was excluded from receiving any of the $5.2 million in stimulus money that was doled out March 20 by the North Central Council of Mayors. In February, it was estimated that the village would need to come up with $1.47 million to pay its share of rebuilding Harvard and Jackson.
None of the other projects on the village’s construction schedule met eligibility requirements for the stimulus money, Mayor Anthony Calderone said.
“We’re going to try and fit them into the general fund,” Finance Director Judy Kovacs said of the construction costs.
Forest Park is facing a potential budget shortfall, and Kovacs has warned the council of the risk that it could default on its long-term debt. The village’s portion for all nine projects was estimated at more than $2.26 million.
After missing out on the recent pool of federal money, Forest Park is looking to make cuts elsewhere in its budget rather than nix infrastructure improvements.
Calderone, however, indicated that several of those projects may have to wait until 2010 or 2011. As for Harvard and Jackson, the mayor said he is determined to see those roads rebuilt this year.
“We feel we’re going to be able to get them done,” Calderone said.
Though no additional federal money could be secured, there is good news, according to Kovacs. As predicted by the village’s engineer, construction costs for all of the projects are down from what was estimated in February. The recession is forcing builders to bid more competitively, which means grant money can be stretched further. It is not yet clear where the final figures will land, but “it’s looking better,” said Kovacs.