Web Extra! Updated 2/02/10 8:55 p.m.
An unofficial tally of the votes on whether the park district should be allowed to collect more taxes from property owners so that it can purchase new land shows that Forest Parkers overwhelmingly supported the notion.
Larry Piekarz, executive director of the park district, said poll watchers on election night came back to him with overwhelming victories in seven of the village’s 11 precincts. In only one neighborhood – precinct 112 – did voters reject the measure. Results posted on the Cook County Clerk’s Web site, also unofficial, also suggested that voters supported the purchase.
“I’m excited,” Piekarz said. “I can’t wait to move my office there tomorrow.”
The referendum question asked whether property owners should pay an additional 12 cents for every $100 of assessed value to support what is estimated to be a $6 million project. Piekarz and park district board members would like to purchase the 2.5-acre Roos property at the corner of Harrison and Circle, and rehab the site for additional classroom and greenspace. The expansion would extend the park’s boundaries to the east, and potentially provide a large grassy area surrounded by walking paths and gardens. Architects for the park district have said the original portion of the Roos, which fronts along Harrison, would be saved while the remainder of the vacant and crumbling brick structure would be demolished.
Plans for the site are preliminary, according to Piekarz, and are still subject to public scrutiny.
“This is just the beginning,” Piekarz said of the work to be done.
Cathy McDermott, president of the park board, estimated the expansion would cost $6 million and take 18 months to complete.
According to poll watchers, said Piekarz, the unofficial tally is 1,343 votes in support of the referendum and 877 votes against. In precinct 112, voters rejected the measure by a count of 58-74. That was the only neighborhood to do so.
In precinct 66, the tally narrowly gave approval by a count of 104-103, according to Piekarz.
Purchasing the Roos is not guaranteed, however. The property fell into foreclosure after a housing development there was crushed by the economy, and Amcore Bank now holds the rights to it. Amcore, though, is under serious pressure from federal regulators to unload its liabilities and build its cash reserves. Park officials have declined to comment on negotiations with the bank.
Just before on election night, the Cook County Clerk’s online results had 10 of the village’s precincts reporting. That tally stood at 1,308 in favor and 898 opposed.