There are two ongoing construction projects in Forest Park about which there is an uncomfortable air. We don’t mean to suggest anything too sinister, and in fact the common problem seems to have a relatively simple fix. Our doubts center on the lack of transparency at village hall, which is something local government has struggled mightily with.
At 7320 Madison, jack-of-all-trades Robert Marani is again busy with his condominium project – an effort that sat dormant for almost two years. Back in 2007, Marani was told he had to stop rehabbing the upper floors of the building because his workmanship was shoddy and looked nothing like what had been approved by the village. Four of the nine units in the property were sold, and in 2008 the condo owners filed a civil claim alleging Marani failed to deliver as promised – and that water was leaking into the building. If nothing else, the case is certainly an indication that the village had good reason for taking off the kid-gloves. Marani, by all accounts, can be difficult to work with.
In a front-page story this week, we learn that Marani has been issued new permits to correct some of the problems at the property, and to prepare the unsold condos for an auction in early November. We understand he’s on a short leash. The long and litigious path to this point is complicated, but there’s one fundamental question we may never have an answer for: Did the village err in its oversight of the project with Mike Boyle at the helm of the building department, or are mistakes being made now that Boyle is gone?
Commissioner Mike Curry oversees the building department and most certainly played a role in ushering Boyle out the door – a week after Marani sued the village. Boyle’s disappearance occurred in such clandestine fashion that a payoff was needed to keep everyone’s lips sealed. We asked Curry why it has taken so long to simply weatherproof the building, and his knee-jerk response was that Boyle is the only one who can answer that question.
But, commissioner, you voted for the payoff that guarantees Boyle’s silence.
Meanwhile the village council was back at it Monday night with upset by minority members that a worthy project to renovate a building for police department use had grown sharply in cost with no communication of details to the council. Again, we think the expansion project is a good one. At first blush the added elements to the project seem reasonable. Why, though, is so much happening in secret?
The concern, expressed by critical commissioners, is that all of this reflects an unwelcome concentration of power at village hall in the hands of the mayor. An alternative theory is that it results from chaos caused by the long absence of a village administrator. Giving new administrator Tim Gillian the benefit of the doubt we’ll watch to see if he grabs hold of projects such as these and then willingly, consciously forwards information to each of the five commissioners and to all of the taxpayers who pay his salary.