Rebuilding Forest Park's aging infrastructure with a focus on green is going to take a long time, a clear determination and as many funding allies as it is possible to muster. But the first step, and one the village has tentatively taken in recent years, is to actively choose green.
With the current asphalt paving of a village hall parking lot deteriorating along with issues related to grading and water drainage, village government is looking at rebuilding the lot with permeable pavers – if it can secure significant funding from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
On July 8, the village council unanimously agreed to seek a $288,000 grant from the MWRD. That grant, if earned, would pay the bulk of the $345,600 estimated cost of the Desplaines Avenue project. The grant application goes in soon, MWRD will choose winners in December. If Forest Park is chosen work would begin next summer. However, if there is no outside funding the paving project will wait.
That is the reality of how infrastructure gets funded. Mayor Rory Hoskins told the council he is optimistic the MWRD will come through. He campaigned offering confidence in his ability as a rainmaker bringing in new money. This will be a test.
Meanwhile, village government will tap the Brown Avenue TIF to the tune of $2.1 million to pay for an array of above and below ground infrastructure fixes along Circle Avenue on the north end of the village. New and larger water mains, sewer separation to keep stormwater out of an overtaxed combined sewer, sidewalk repairs and street resurfacing will all be part of a plan that will be under construction this season with some work stretching into 2020.
Again, this sort of determined piecemeal approach is the reality of infrastructure work unless the village council looks for a larger funding fix involving a bonding referendum. We don't see that happening soon in a town where the village government is financially fragile. The sewers in Forest Park and ancient and inadequate, the necessary upgrades costly. But taking the opportunities which present themselves to make partial steps all with an eye on reducing flooding and getting greener is a positive step and a critical focus.
Focusing on early childhood
Taking advantage of an unusually high number of teacher retirements this spring, Forest Park's District 91 elementary schools will focus more resources on growing its popular preschool offerings.
Not only is this a worthwhile educational effort but the district is hoping to convert happy parents of very small children into K-8 district families. The district needs to stem a sharp enrollment decline sooner than later.
Adding in demand programs while saving money as veteran classroom teachers retire is making the best, most financially responsible choices in a situation that is not anyone's best case scenario.
Finally, thanks to the six teachers who take their leave from our local schools. Between them they offered our kids 134 years of their talent and passion for teaching.