Last January, the villages of Forest Park and River Forest received a joint $1.34 million Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP) grant to give Madison Street a facelift west of Desplaines Ave. to Van Buren in the 7800 block.

Monday, the Village Council officially approved the project, which will bring landscaping, new sidewalks and other improvements to the street bordering both villages.

The grant was hailed as an example of intergovernmental cooperation by River Forest Village Manager Eric Palm who acknowledged Forest Park’s work securing the grant. “Forest Park was the lead agency on this,” Palm said in February.

The ITEP grants are awarded for projects that encourage pedestrian-friendly bike paths, walking trails and street beautification. The grant is a federal program, administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation. More than $327 million was awarded last year, but only 53 communities got the money even though IDOT received 328 applications. Local matching funds are required and work must proceed on the project within three years. Forest Park and River Forest are each kicking in $246,320 toward the project.

Monday, the village council voted to begin the project. Forest Park will take the lead in hiring engineers and orchestrating the effort. The village will bill River Forest for its share.

The project should make the streetscaping feel of Madison Street continuous travelling west and, hopefully, attract more businesses on both the Forest Park and River Forest sides of the street.

The project will include new lighting, crosswalks, planter boxes, sidewalk removal and replacement and pavement markings.

The project will proceed in three stages. The first stage has already begun. According to the agreement, Forest Park will hire professional engineers to manage the project and keep track of all paperwork and communication with IDOT. Forest Park will pay the engineers’ invoices and then bill River Forest for half the amount, according to the documents approved Monday.

Harris still thinks Ribfest bands paid too much

Commissioner Chris Harris still believes live bands are paid too much when they perform at village functions such as the upcoming Ribfest held Sept. 14.

Harris voted “no” and was overruled at the July 12 Forest Park Village Council meeting when the council approved the agreement to pay four Ribfest bands about $8,000.

The village voted to pay bands “Caliente” $1,600 and “Mr. Big Stuff” $1,300 for hour-and-a-half performances during the day at Ribfest. Groups “Generations” and “Evolution” will receive $2,400 each to perform for two hours later that night.

Harris had complained in the past that Ribfest entertainment was paid too much. But he was careful not to criticize the event itself, or Community Center Director Karen Dylewski.

“It’s a delicate line. Karen Dylewski does a fantastic job in the organization of the event and voting against should not be seen as a vote against her efforts or the event itself, which I think is great for the community,” he said in an email.

Harris said the process for hiring bands should be changed. In the past, he suggested to save money, a talent buyer should be consulted with expertise about the going rate for live entertainment.

“I offered up solutions [and] they fell on deaf ears,” he said. “It’s not my department, so I can’t change the way it’s done, so the system remains in place,” he added.

Citizens Police Academy starts up in the fall

Forest Park Police Sgt. Peter Morrissette will resume the department’s eight-week Citizens Police Academy in September. The free class meets on 10 consecutive Tuesday nights beginning September 3.

Through guest speakers from the department, citizens learn about police work and the Forest Park department specifically. Classes are given in narcotics policing, forensic evidence, detective work, arrest warrants/court follow up, traffic enforcement and canine patrols. In a class on arrest procedures, volunteers experience being Tasered. The class also features a squad car ride-along.

To register for the class or find out more, call Morrissette at (708) 615-6220.

Ribfest applications available online

Barbecue geniuses are sought by the Forest Park Ribfest, held Sept. 14. Applications are available online to enter the contest, which specifies only pork ribs (baby back or square) may be used and must be cooked on the Ribfest premises the day of the event. First place winner receives $750 and prizes are awarded for best decorations of tents or booths. Ribs are judged blind by a panel of rib experts. Visitors can sample some contest ribs, as well as buy commercially prepared ribs and other foods at the festival. Four bands will also perform. See the village’s website at for more information.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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