Forest Park’s village council decided not to repave the village-owned employee parking lot at 510 Desplaines Ave. with permeable pavement after all.

During the May 23 village council meeting, almost four months after they decided to delay the decision, the commissioners voted 3-2 not to go ahead with the project, with Mayor Rory Hoskins casting the deciding vote. The village previously committed to the project thanks in large part to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) agreeing to foot 70% of the projected construction costs. But after the project bids came back higher than expected and with MWRD “unable” to increase their share, commissioners Maria Maxham and Ryan Nero argued that they couldn’t justify spending the extra money.

During the Feb. 11 meeting, the council decided to hold off taking actions as Hoskins suggested that a federal grant could make up the difference. But the grant failed to materialize and, by May 23, the council was close to running out of time – if it didn’t approve the bid by June 1, it would lose the grant. With the council voting the contract down, village administrator Moses Amidei said Forest Park would still likely need to repave the parking lot within the next five years, even if it’s with more transitional asphalt.

The project would’ve replaced asphalt with permeable pavement, so that, instead of draining into the sewer, rainwater would seep underneath the pavement, where it would be stored and slowly released into the sewer system. That could keep around 40,000 gallons of stormwater from going to the sewers all at once, reducing flooding.

In 2020, Forest Park estimated that the project would cost around $288,000. MWRD agreed to cover $201,600 of it. Forest Park was originally supposed to cover the remaining $86,400, as well as $28,800 in construction engineering costs.

But the lowest bid came back higher than expected. With MWRD sticking with the amount they agreed to cover, accepting the bid would’ve increased the village’s share of construction costs to $143,400 and engineering cost would have gone up to $35,000.

 Commissioner Jessica Voogd, whose purview includes public land and public parks, reiterated her earlier arguments that the extra cost would be worth the long-term benefit of reducing flooding. 

“I expect that we’ll need to deal with this structure in the future and spend money,” she said. “We can do it in a green way, or we can do the asphalt.”

Maxham argued that it could make more sense to apply for MWRD funding again, since the 70% it gets would be more reflective of actual costs. Amidei cautioned that it hinges on construction costs not increasing and MWRD accepting the next application.

Commissioner Joseph Byrnes mused that he “has never seen the prices go lower in construction,” so it might make sense to take advantage of the opportunity while it’s there.

Nero reiterated his earlier argument that the extra money would be better spent on other, more pressing infrastructure projects. He also noted that Forest Park successfully applied for MWRD grants in the past. 

Amidei told the council that he expects MWRD to be understanding of the village’s position, and he doesn’t believe the no vote would hurt their chances with the next grant. 

Nero added that, while he generally agreed with Byrnes’ point, he believed that the current supply chain issues were an aberration and that, once they are addressed, the costs wouldn’t rise as fast as they have been recently.

“Are they going to go down?  No,” he said. “But maybe they’ll level out to where they were 2-3 years ago.”

Nero and Maxham voted against the contract, while Voogd and Byrnes voted in favor. Hoskins, who was silent throughout the entire discussion, cast the final ‘no’ vote.