Cop Shop Spending Blocks Further Reduction In Tax Levy Increase


Tonight’s Park Ridge City Council meeting agenda has at least on item worthy of some taxpayer interest. 

The first scheduled item is the Council’s vote to sustain or over-ride Mayor Dave Schmidt’s veto of the $290,170 purchase order for the design and construction of “Phase I” of a police station improvement plan – which we understand consists of a 1,500 square foot “outbuilding” (at a cost of approximately $165,000, not counting the allocable “soft” costs, furniture, equipment, etc.), a parking lot to hold 18 cars ($69,000) and a 600 square foot bike corral ($12,000).  According to Chief Kaminski’s report, the entire cost of Phase I will be approximately $360,670, but only the $290,170 P.O. was vetoed.

In his veto message given at the 11.19.12 Council meeting, Schmidt rightly pointed out that “the City currently has well over 6,000 square feet of vacant space in other [City-owned] buildings, the majority of which is in the former Public Works Service Center” at Greenwood and Elm that, until a few years ago, had been leased and operated by NICOR.  But, in our opinion, Schmidt let the Police Chief’s Advisory Task Force off the hook way too easily for exploring only “one possible solution” to certain problems with the current cop shop.

Since that Task Force was established in February 2010, ostensibly to assist Chief Kaminski in community reach-out to improve the reputation of the Police Department in the wake of the Ekl Report, the Task Force members have focused much of its attention on the cop shop’s physical plant.  And in the same way everything looks like a nail to a hammer, the Task Force seems to view construction as the solution to almost every “problem” with the PRPD. 

As best as we can tell – and despite Chief Kaminski’s claim that “I think the Task Force really spent a lot of time looking at the alternatives other than building a new facility or buying new property” – we can find no shred of evidence that the Task Force ever seriously looked at the City’s other available space before recommending the $1.1 million construction plan that will begin with Phase I.  For example, we can find no mention whatsoever of any evaluation of other available City space in the 75-page report produced by the Task Force last year, “Cost Effective Strategies to Address Risk Factors at the Police Facility.”    

Irrespective of the soundness of Schmidt’s arguments for using space the City already has instead of building new, we don’t expect three aldermen on this Council to sustain his veto. 

Which brings us to the second scheduled item of interest: the property tax levy increase.

The Council is scheduled to pass the new property tax levy increase which, at 2.15%, will be the lowest increase in at least 10 years – by more than an entire percent!  The irony is that the levy increase could drop all the way down to around 0.4% by the Council’s sustaining that veto and saving the City’s taxpayers the additional $290,000. 

But we’re guessing that’s way too radical for aldermen who seemed to be so mesmerized by the plans for Phase I that they could barely manage any questions of Chief Kaminski or the Task Force members each time this project was discussed, like: “Have you thoroughly evaluated all of the available space the City currently owns?” and “If not, why not?” 

With 6,000 square feet of space already available, spending $290,000+ (actually $360,000+) on 2,100 square feet of what amounts to storage space – and 18 parking slots – seems like both bad tax policy and bad management.

Or just another hammer looking for another nail.

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