Public Watchdog.org

Summit Lot Reconstruction Flyer Raises Questions

09.09.13

More than a year ago we wrote about the abysmal condition of the City’s commuter parking lot along Summit Avenue (“‘Management By Walking Around Should Start With Stroll Along Summit,” 08.03.12).

Virtually 100% of the pavement was crumbling back then, some of it revealing formerly paved-over tree stumps.  That it was allowed to deteriorate to the point where the lot’s condition would have been an embarrassment to economically-distressed communities like Bellwood, Robbins or Waukegan suggests that somebody(ies) at City Hall had been asleep at the wheel for a number of years.

So there’s finally some good news to report: the rebuilding of that parking lot, along with the curbs and the installation of sidewalks, is beginning today.

The bad news, however, is how the City is choosing to deal with the problems the construction will cause.

Last Wednesday/Thursday, parkers along Summit returned to their cars in the evening to find a flyer stuffed behind their cars’ windshield wipers, announcing the commencement of the project and that there will be NO PARKING in that Summit lot between Prospect (on the West) and Ridge (on the East) for the approximately six weeks the project is supposed to take.

No mention of where these displaced resident commuters might find alternative parking – presumably because the City has made no arrangements for such alternative parking – or even where the other City parking lots are located.  Just a basic “parking lot will be closed for 6 weeks.”

And an implicit: “F U” to the folks who regularly use that lot.

We’re talking well over 100 spaces that are used 8-plus hours a day, 5 days a week.  Many of the people who regularly park in those spaces have never parked anywhere else in connection with their daily commute.  They probably could have used a small map of what City lots are closest to the METRA station.

But commuters got no map.  They got no alternatives.  All they got was a bare-bones announcement.

Oh, yes, and they got one more thing: not one but TWO mentions on the flyer of “Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. (CBBEL)” – the City’s engineer on this project.

Hmmm, how curious.

We’ll match our governmental “transparency” and “accountability” advocacy against anybody’s, but wouldn’t one mention of “Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. (CBBEL)” on this flyer have been enough?  Especially since “CBBEL” seems to have become the newest most-favored-vendor for City engineering services, with its fingerprints already all over the City’s various flood control projects.

Or is somebody at City Hall shilling for CBBEL?

Back in October, 2011, Mayor Dave Schmidt and Alds. Joe Sweeney (1st), Rich DiPietro (2nd) and Dan Knight (5th) expressed reservations about the circumstances surrounding the selection of CBBEL as the provider of engineering services for the initial phases of the City’s sewer improvement (a/k/a, flood control) plan.  According to the minutes of the October 10, 2011 Committee of the Whole meeting, Schmidt questioned then-city manager Jim Hock’s playing golf as a guest of CBBEL, especially when the City was negotiating with CBBEL over its services for the multi-million dollar flood control projects.

Hock’s gone, so we know he didn’t author the flyer promoting CBBEL.  So that would appear to mean that CBBEL has another “friend” (or two) in City Hall.

And when it comes to government, especially here in Illinois, such “friend”-ly relationships usually mean trouble for taxpayers.

To read or post comments, click on title.

26 comments so far

On a similar note, I see all the spaces are closed along prospect from what was Pines to the Pickwick.

1. How long?
2. How much?
3. For what return?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Presumably for the same 6 weeks as the Summit project.

We’re not certain of the total cost (or, for that matter, the cost of rebuilding the Summit lot v. the cost of the Prospect work), althought we understand this also is tied to the Uptown TIF.

The same kind of “return” we get for keeping our streets and sidewalks in good condition.

What?! You want the city of use our tax dollars to provide a map of parking lots that the users of the commuter lot could easily obtain for themselves at their own expense?! Freeloader!

EDITOR’S NOTE: It would have been the work of some salaried employee – perhaps the same one who expended his/her time drafting the CBBEL advertisement/flyer – so the additional incremental cost would have been non-existent or minimal for doing it the right way rather than the typical half-baked bureaucratic way.

I got one of those flyers and thought it odd that there was no information about alternative parking. I did not pay attention to those two references to CBBEL, but now that you mention it it does seem odd. I would hate to think there is something wrong going on, but it does make you think.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If anyone believes “it can’t happen here,” all they need to do is look at sleepy little Dixon, Illinois, and how a long-time, trusted employee embezzled $53 million over 20 years.

I had the same thought as 4:45 a.m. — Geeze, you would be the first to have a hissy if a moment’s concern was expended to make life minutely easier for any other special interest group of residents in Park Ridge. Why do these 100 deserve actual consideration and useful information from the people their taxes support? It’s outside the basic, no-frills public safety/public works rubric you accept as the City’s biz, right? Could it be that you are one of the displaced 100, so it suddenly matters?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This editor is one of the “displaced 100,” but he is aware of at least one other parking lot that works just fine at 6:15 a.m., thank you. And it’s not only the “displaced 100” but also all the folks – including people from outside Park Ridge – who use those commercial/retail spaces that also have been taken out of commission.

Advising people of alternatives is good customer service that can only be considered a “frill” if bad customer service is your baseline “no-frills public safety/public works rubric.”

I don’t think customer service is part of the city workers mantra….based on the service I got on 2 calls for help this week.

I noticed that the hours that customers can contact City are now one half hour less than before. Did we get a cost reduction out of that??

We need more contracting out. But I noticed that the budget includes significant new hiring in Building and Streets. New people on Council….. no changes

One of the store owners on Prospect claimed that he received the same kind of bare bones notice about Prospect project last weekend….stuck in the door. Bet the merchants lose Christmas.

Regarding your observations about the public unions I notice on the posted billboard on Prospect that the minimum labor rate on our project based on Idot requirements starts at $37 per hour wage for laborers and gets to $70 per hour for labor when pension, medical, training etc are added in.

I heard from a landscaper that the City minimum laborers rate in PR is over $35 per hour but I don’t know whether that is true. Not bad when one spends a couple of hours a day “at work” getting ready to work, driving to site, driving back and forth to breaks, getting ready to go home, and in the winter hiding out all day to get rested up for overtime plowing snow. I noticed that two years ago the Herald showed short time labor employees earning $80k including overtime.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The only way taxpayers will get a “cost reduction” out of the reduced City Hall hours is if a majority of aldermen stop rolling over every time a public employees union or non-union personnel demand/request another raise without providing more, better or more efficient service.

At the Council’s 05.06.13 meeting, the previous Council over-rode Schmidt’s veto of the new Public Works employees union contract providing $75,000 of non merit-based raises. Current Alds. Sweeney, Smith, Mazzuca and Maloney joined with former alds. DiPietro and Raspanti to over-ride Schmidt, with only current Ald. Knight voting to sustain the veto. As best as we can recall, none of those fellows has yet to vote against an employee pay raise.

On projects such as this one, state law requires that the City pay the “prevailing wage” when it contracts out for such services – so that’s another mess for which you can thank the knucklehead brigade in Springfield.

12:25:

So this is news to you?? How often do you come here??? There is much about this blog that is very good but you have to filter through some of the crap.

One of those areas you have to deal with is that PD has a double standard. If it is something he finds of value and he does not get it he screams to high heaven about bad city staff but if it something he does not find of value then all who use it are freeloaders.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Too bad your failure to provide specific examples of our alleged “double standard” demonstrates how meritless your criticsism is.

” Not bad when one spends a couple of hours a day “at work” getting ready to work, driving to site, driving back and forth to breaks, getting ready to go home, and in the winter hiding out all day to get rested up for overtime plowing snow”.

Do you know this to be true??? Have you watched what they do on a daily basis??? You are essentially saying they only work 6 hours a day and in the winter you are accusing them of doing nothing at all. That is nothing but crap.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You two might just be talking about two different types of employees. Or one of you is wrong. Or both of you are wrong. Or not.

As we understand both public and private employment, the key is when (and where) you clock in and clock out. If you’re a City employee and clock in at the Public Works building, then your trip to and from the worksite would appear to be on the taxpayers’ dime. From our experience, most private workers don’t “clock in” until they are on site – although if they are sent on a two-hour trip for materials, they are likely also “on the clock.”

As for sleeping during winter days to rest up for OT snow plowing, that sounds like a stretch to us – although not unheard of in The City That Works, especially if the employee is connected.

Why were all the trees cut down on Prospect and Summit in Uptown? Were they dying? I checked the city website and no mention of why the trees were cut down as part of the street scape project. In addition, the article in the HA only mentioned that a variety of trees species would be planted to replace those trees taken out. But why were the mature trees that were in Uptown taken down to begin with? Uptown looks awful. Between this and the destruction of dozens of trees at Centennial park-the city can hardly claim to be a Tree City USA. Planting new small trees cannot replace the mature trees lost.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s our understanding that the trees were cut down because they allegedly could not be preserved in the face of the extensive renovation work being undertaken on Prospect. Whether any real effort was made to preserve them – either by protecting them in place or by “harvesting” them and replanting them later – is unknown. Similarly unknown is whether they will be replaced by new mature trees or 3-inch diameter sticks.

As for the Centennial Park trees, that’s the Park District’s baby – although the same questions remain.

Thanks for the information. Funny how when the tax paying homeowner tries to take a tree down we have to get a permit. Taking down healthy mature trees to fit in to some frankly unnecessary redesign of a one block stretch of Summit and Prospect is ridiculous. Take advantage of what cannot be replaced in this lifetime without significant cost at taxpayer expense.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Homeowners need to get a permit from the City. We’re not sure how much sense it makes for the City needing to get a permit from itself.

As for how “unnecessary” the redesign of Summit/Prospect is, we understand that’s yet another part of the misbegotten Uptown TIF that the City committed to when it approved the plans and issued the bonds years ago.

Let’s look at the positives here. We will have an nice new steet scape on which to stroll as we gaze at the empty store fronts.

Did the merchants have any input?? Can you imagine being a store (Dick Pond for example) and have that much parking and foot traffic gone for over a month???

EDITOR’S NOTE: Based on the eleventh-hour leafletting of the commuter parkers on Summit, we would be surprised if the merchants even got any better NOTICE than that, much less any “input” in the planning. Notice gives people/taxpyers an opportunity to beef, and beefing makes bureaucrats unhappy.

“……..the redesign of Summit/Prospect is, we understand that’s yet another part of the misbegotten Uptown TIF that the City committed to when it approved the plans and issued the bonds years ago”…….Hold on a second!!!

SO now this was committed to in the TIF like it could not have been stopped, reopened or discussed???

In an earlier post you mentioned that you did not know how much this piece or the parking repave cost. You don’t know??!?!!? You are probably in the top 1% of informed people related to PR issues and you do not know???

So as this whole thing moved toward an actual start date not one elected official raise their hand and asked do we really need to do this and can we get out of it?? Not even the Mayor who constantly rings the ol’e TIF financial crisis bell!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we understand it, the entire “streetscape” project – both the Prospect part and the Summit part – will cost approximately $1.4 million, with $800,000-plus funded by a state grant and the City paying the rest. Exactly how much of that is allocated to each piece of the project is not on our radar.

We can’t speak to the necessity of the Prospect work because that stretch didn’t seem to be in bad shape. But the Summit parking lot was almost entirely rubble, in many places without any pavement at all – just dirt, the tops of tree stumps, crumbling curbs, etc. And from what we understand about the state grant money, it was “use it or lose it.”

I do not disagree with you about the parking area. While I generally walk when I take the train, anyone who drives or walks in that area could see the bad shape that parking strip along the tracks was.

So let’s do some back of the napkin math. Using what you have heard, and assuming that the Prospect street scape will cost more (it will be more labor intensive and complicated) compared to repaving the parking area, let’s say that the street scape costs $350,000. I think if most people were polled they would agree with your statement that “that stretch didn’t seem to be in bad shape”.

So did this need to be done??? Maybe there is some underlying reason. Maybe there are problems with this stretch that are not visible to the eye but will cause problems…..hell, I do not know!!! It was never discussed as far as I can tell.

What I do know is that for some things in this town that cost about 10% of 350K there are folks squealing like pigs as if they are being robbed!! There are quotes and speeches from the Mayor about this horrible crushing debt and all kinds of hubbub!

I find it very disappointing that there was not even any discussion on whether this money really needed to be spent. Tightening our belts is not just about union contracts and community groups. It is also about what we spend on infrastructure and if it is really needed. You can say that it was bureaucrats not wanting beefing but it was also elected officials who completely dropped the ball in terms of asking tough questions about the project.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There was plenty of discussion about this project at Council meetings for the past few years, and even newspaper articles about it going back 2-3-4 years.

The unfortunate problem with these kinds of projects is that our bankrupt State government keeps handing out “candy” – in the form of grants – to whomever applies for them. Whether the City should even be applying for grants from a profligate/bankrupt/corrupt state government is definitely worth debating, although we can be pretty sure that even if Park Ridge didn’t get those grants, that money would have been handed out to some other town so there wouldn’t be any savings in Springfield.

In this case, an IDOT grant paid for $320,000 of the $400,000 design study for this project, and another $800,000-plus for the actual “streetscaping” work – leaving the City with a bill for around $550,000. So what has happened here is that the City is getting approx. $1.8 million of infrastructure improvements for 1/3 the cost – a 66% discount. If you’ve got a problem with that, say so.

But don’t even try to equate renovation of public infrastructure in the City’s center with arbitrary payments to private community groups, or non performance-based raises to public employees.

I thought it must be a slow day for news. Then I read — EDITOR’S NOTE: This editor is one of the “displaced 100”
butt hurt, really? Most people who drive to that or other lots know their way around. They can also park at Dee or Edison Pk. I don’t even ride the Metra and could figure that out. Does someone hold your hand after you park when crossing the street?

How about some real news — the proposed 126-unit adult orientated apartment building on the 3.5-acre site at 205 W. Touhy Ave
Last night there was even one PZ commisioner who inquired about rezoning it R5.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No hurt butts. And if you re-read the comment – as always, feel free to move your lips to aid comprehension – you’ll see that this editor already had a Plan B.

Hold that R-5 thought for our upcoming post later today.

1. Elected officials (Mayor included) have said we have a huge debt issue.

2. You stated that “that stretch didn’t seem to be in bad shape”.

3. So let’s get it because it is a good deal!!!!!

I was strolling in the city a few weeks back and happened upon the Bentley dealer on Rush street. There was a beautiful Continental GTC out front. A sales person came out and told me it was 40K off sticker price!! Great discount but guess what?? I still cannot afford it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A car is not infrastructure. And $40K off the $195K sticker is only a 20% savings, not a 66% savings.

But we’re game: try again.

And by the way…..I few posts ago you wrote about Alderman Knight reminding folks that Maine township does not give us stuff but uses our tax dollars to buy stuff.

The exact same thing applies here. All that money they are “giving” in IDOT grants comes from us and is a part of why the states budget issues.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Well, you got the “similarity” half of the equation right (the state is giving us some of our own money back, via the grants), but you missed the more important “difference” half of the equation: Maine Twp. gave us our own money back, then wanted our used SUV in return for doing so.

But keep your eyes open and let us know if Pat Quinn asks for that used SUV in return for the grant money.

1:40:00 on the latest council video….no sound.

Mayor Dave?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We doubt Mayor Dave is in charge of uploading the videos, but since apparently none of the City’s highly-paid staffers are on top of this problem perhaps Mayor Dave can get somebody’s attention to fix this problem

Forgive my ignorance but how did the fixing up the sidewalks on P&S ever get connected to the TIF and why?

Also the parking lot for the church and city hall looks pretty shotty. The asphalt looks 30 40 50 years old.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our recollection is that it was a throw-in concession to the Uptown merchants south of Touhy, who were concerned that the bright and glity emerald city north of Touhy would steal away their business.

The asphalt probably is 30-40-50 years old, although it’s still not in as bad shape as the Summit lot that is being renovated.

As I rode the train today, I saw dozens of empty parking spaces along Summit further down the road and at the relatively convenient Edison Park station. In fact, the parking spots at Edison Park are closer to that station than some of the under construction spaces at Park Ridge.

So…do able-minded commuters who presumably have college degrees really need the government to tell them to look down the block or look out the train window to see all the available spots at Edison Park? I mean, really…

EDITOR’S NOTE: You could probably say the same for Dee Road, Des Plaines and Norwood Park. But does that mean somebody at City Hall, when composing that flyer, couldn’t have pointed out where the other City lots in the Uptown area are located – or would that have interfered with the shameless shilling for the City’s newest BFF vendor, CBBEL?

Re video: the problem appears to be with the uplink to YouTube since the City’s “copy” seems fine. So staff is re-loading the video onto YouTube which should solve the problem. Should be OK by later this evening.

“In this case, an IDOT grant paid for $320,000 of the $400,000 design study for this project……”

It is Wonderful to know that you are all for 400K design studies that we pay 80K for. Again, the other 320 still comes out of our tax dollars, but more importantly…………what the hell did they do in this design study that warranted a 400K bill???? The work they are doing on summit and prospect requires a 400K design study??? I mean let’s say you had enough folks involved that you billed $1,000 per hour….that would be 400 freakin’ hours!!!! That’s 10 weeks. To make it even crazier, let’s say that $1000 per hour represents 5 people at $200 per hour. That would mean that this study took 2000 man hours!!! That is 50 weeks!!! But what the hell, we only paid 80K for it, right?? We got a deal!! 80K means it is only a 400 hour or 10 week job…..hahahahaha. If this is the bill for the study imagine what it is the actual project.

So when it is 40K for community groups you demand accounting down to the penny and minute but you defend this project.

All for a street that you said was not a problem.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’ve really got to work on your reading skills.

We haven’t endorsed the Prospect project, nor have we commented on the reasonableness of the cost of either it or the Summit project. If you feel this strongly about those costs, however, show up at Monday night’s City Council meeting and say so.

But criticizing any City project that improves public infrastructure by talking about 40K for private “community groups” is just more apples-to-oranges stupidity.

So, lets get back to the one (or two) people that have obvious ties with CBBEL…. it obviously isn’t Hock so is it going to be ignored?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Good question for the mayor and the City Council.

“…………nor have we commented on the reasonableness of the cost of either it or the Summit project”…………..Don’t you get it….TAHT IS THE POINT!!!!!!!!!!

I can read just fine and I am not comparing this project to money for community groups. What I am doing is comparing your reaction to each in terms of this conservative fiscally responsible persona you love to put forward on this blog. I am also looking at the Mayor who talks about the “crushing debt” we face that is racing toward us like a run away train (ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh) and yet makes no comment on this.

You ask about examples of double standards. In one case you want full documentation of everything and in this case you have not even commented.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Don’t hide behind weasel-ly comments about “double standards” AFTER you claim that you’re “not comparing this project to money for community groups.” Otherwise, what “one case…[of] full documentation of everything” are you talking about?

The bottom line is that it appears the City is getting approx. $1.3 million from the State of Illinois for infrastructure repairs/improvements to which the City is contributing approx. $550,000. If you’ve got a beef with that kind of deal, just come out and say so – don’t beat around the bush with bogus “double standards” comments.

And if you really have a beef about these kinds of projects, you should have showed up and said so at the many City Council meetings where it was discussed and voiced your objection when it might have had some effect.

In fact not only did you not comment on it. You used it as a defense…..66% off….yippee!!!!

Yeah you are a real budget hawk!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We could say that we are more of a “budget hawk” than anybody who sat on the City Council from 1990 through 2007, but that would be like Mariano Rivera bragging about striking out the other team’s pitcher.

And, yes, a 66% discount on infrastructure repairs/improvements that were going to be done definitely deserves a “yippee!!!!” – unless you’re one of those jamokes that always pays retail.

Not only do I not pay retail, I don’t even pay attention to the number. Retail price is a joke when the next week you see the same item at 50++ off. You are the one who brings up the retail (400K) number as if it is something real. 66% off a number that is a joke to begin with is not a great of a deal as it appears. Especially if we are in the financial crisis everyone claims and prospect is not that bad as you stated and the whole 400K number ultimately comes from the taxpayer anyway.

Related to the community groups I am not at all saying that the position you have taken for years is wrong. I am NOT trying to use this issue to say we should now pay community groups. That issue has been decided.

I am saying that it is funny/weird/odd that you tear into one issue like a bulldog demanding facts and not the other issue you brush them off as if they do not even matter?? Why is that?? Do you thing that the 400K number is legit?? I mean if the end goal is the taxpayer, does it not make sense that equal passion be directed to these items.

You seem to be more upset about how many times the engineering company is mentioned in a stupid flyer than how much they are being (over)paid.

EDITOR’S NOTE: When you can PROVE that the engineering company is being “overpaid” – or when you come out of the “anonymous” closet and at least are willing to put your name and personal reputation behind your silly rimshot comments – we’ll consider starting to take your comments seriously.

If we had even an iota of hope that, should Park Ridge not accept State grant money, that money would go toward the underfunded pensions, or paying the State’s overdue bills, we’d argue against the City applying for or accepting that money. But 30-plus years of a corrupt Madigan-controlled Democratic General Assembly, aided and abetted on occasion by corrupt Republican governors, has convinced us that if Park Ridge doesn’t take the money, Des Plaines – or Niles, or Elmwood Park, or Lake Bluff, etc. – will.

But once again we ask: Where were you when this project was being discussed by the Council over a period of months?

Two more examples of the ole’ double standard.

1. “When you can PROVE that the engineering company is being “overpaid”….. Funny how with the community groups (again a dead issue) YOU hammered away about who and how and what our tax dollars are going for without (to this day) a single bit of proof. You did so on a hypothesis. I am doing the same thing but now I require proof. If you really want proof for every post on the blog about 75% would not be here….including yours!!

2. You fall back on attacking the validity of what I have stated because I choose to post anonymously when you your self have defended those who do so and stated why you accept such posts……unless you disagree with them apparently. In some cases you jump right on the band wagon with posts made by someone anonymously….so long as you agree with them. Double standard. There I go being “weasel-ly” again.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Re “community groups” (which you call a “dead issue” but keep resurrecting), the proof that Park Ridge tax dollars arbitrarily given to private corporations like CofC (for example) by past Councils were going to non-Park Ridge uses is made by: (a) CofC’s own “About Us” blurb, in which it advertises that “The Center of Concern is a not-for-profit agency offering social services to individuals living in the northwest Chicago area.” [Emphasis added]; and (b) in CofC’s consistent and adamant refusal to identify the specific services provided to Park Ridge residents, and the cost thereof.

We tend to attack commentators’ anonymity when they insist on making assertions that we believe no reasonable person would make under their own names.

the larger issue is that you accept, if not approve, the monies spent for the Prospect project because to you, the $1.6 mill we got from the State is real, but the life-supporting, life-enhancing work of the community groups like Center for Concern is of incalculable value, and so to you, it’s without value. Using your standard, the Prospect project is an investment one can understand if not co-sign; the community group donations are just throwaways.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So now you want to reward community groups like CofC for not even attempting to measure the value of whatever benefits they claim to provide for the money they spend, by calling it “incalculable”? That’s the kind of thinking – or non-thinking – that keeps Ponzi schemes working.



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