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“Green” Library Lot: A Non-Solution Looking For A Non-Problem?

04.26.19

We here at PublicWatchdog have long been pro-environment and anti-flooding.  Heck, the editor of this blog participated in the very first Earth Day – April 22, 1970 – in Grant Park, and has been environmentally conscious ever since.

So the recent Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article reporting on the Park Ridge City Council’s April 8 discussion about replacing the Library parking lot’s asphalt surface with water-permeable brick pavers at a cost of $1.3 million (“Park Ridge aldermen divided on pursuing ‘green’ parking lot in Uptown,” April 11, 2019) caught our attention.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (“MWRD”) reportedly is willing to provide a matching grant, up to $650,000, for the project. For those who don’t pay attention to this stuff, the MWRD is one of the thousands of Illinois taxing bodies seemingly created and maintained to confiscate our tax dollars so that, in the MWRD’s case, dim-witted nephews and ditzy sisters-in-law of Crook County politicians can become public payrollers with guaranteed health care and pensions, but with no accountability.

But don’t take our word for it: Read “The ‘Ed Burke Effect’ washes over the  water district: Cue Cook County’s inspector general” (Chicago Tribune, April 22) and you’ll see the MWRD described as “a bastion of crony politics” that provides “big opportunities for corruption” because it “has long been a hotbed of Democratic politics and patronage.”

The MWRD’s corruption is the least of our concerns when it comes to this “green” paver project, however.

We were struck initially with the superficiality and stunning lack of data in that April 11 H-A article, which we initially attributed to superficial journalism until we read the superficial POS (and, in this case, “POS” does not mean Point Of Sale) April 8 Agenda Cover Memorandum by City Engineer Sarah Mitchell and watched the data-light Council discussion on the April 8 meeting video.

Sorry, J.J. Our bad.

Both Mitchell’s memo and the roughly 50-minute Council discussion are bereft of the most basic hard data that any responsible public official should have needed to justify moving this project forward, including: (1) how much water the “green” paver lot will detain; (2) for how long; (3) where will the water go from there; (4) the all-in project cost, including the cost of the design and engineering work for which the City is 100% responsible; (5) the cost to maintain the pavers v. maintaining the asphalt surface; (6) exactly what “other things” the City will we need to do “to make this project work,” per Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th); and (7) viable alternatives.

The only usable information provided by Mitchell’s memo and the Council’s discussion appears to be a proposed Library lot redesign required for the project, which would eliminate 13 current spaces in order to create the island “rain gardens” that are supposed to aid in the water detention.

Is a “green” Library lot more of a solution looking for a problem?

According to the H-A article, Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim told the Council the project will have “limited benefit” for flood control, because water runoff will still end up in the City’s sewer system. And he warned that heavy clay under the Library lot may hamper the amount of stormwater the lot will be able to detain.

“Limited benefit”? Water runoff still ending up in the sewers? No certainty as to how much water such a “green” lot can hold? At a cost of no less – and maybe a lot more – than $650,000?

Half-baked doesn’t come close to describing this boondoggle, which is sounding more and more like a non-solution looking for a non-problem.

There’s a lot more to this story than can be gleaned from just the H-A article about the April 8 Public Works meeting, the POS memo, the meeting minutes, and the meeting video. So we’ll be writing more about this in our next post.

But in view of the gross ignorance that appears to be driving this project forward, we need to give a special shout-out to Ald. Charlie Melidosian (5th) who – in response to a concern of Ald. Nick Milissis (2nd) about the “optics” of this project and its expense – expressed his unqualified support by self-assuredly proclaiming that he was “not concerned about residents’ perception: If we voted based on residents’ perception I think we’d be making a lot of mistakes.” (See meeting video, starting at the 1:02:17 mark).

Is Melidosian so clueless that he thinks being “concerned about residents’ perception” means becoming a human windsock blowing hither and yon at the public’s whim? Or is he so arrogant that he believes there’s nothing he can learn from residents, including his constituents?

To be fair, Melidosian qualified his tone deaf/arrogant comment with: “Our job is to educate people on the facts….”

But just what “facts” might those be, alderman – the answers to questions (1) through (7) above? If so, why weren’t those facts front-and-center in Mitchell’s memo, or raised by you and your fellow “green” lot cheerleaders, Alds. John Moran and Mazucca, at the April 8 meeting before your “consensus” to move this project forward?

For those of you keeping score, those three aldermen were part of a unanimous 6-vote (Milissis MIA) Council that screwed the pooch senseless with their Axon body camera ankle-grab for Chief Kaminski that will cost Park Ridge taxpayers approximately $280,000 – while the Niles PD got the same number of body cams from another vendor for approximately $64,000. We wrote about that in our 12.27.2018 and our 01.14.2019 posts, but you should also check out Kaminski’s defense of his disregard for the City’s procurement policy.

$280,000 is chump change compared to $650,000, which sounds more like a bait-and-switch number than the final, all-in one. And, unlike with the “green” lot’s water detention, there was never any doubt that the Axon body cams would actually work.

To read or post comments, click on title.

26 comments so far

I don’t know if Melidosian’s tone stemmed from being newly elected rather than being appointed or if his true colors came to the fore, but his remarks were truly interesting. Remarks about educating people, having to be a bit of a “visionary” and parking not being a problem, I am not sure if he’s ignorant or arrogant or both. As for cobblestone streets in Europe, who cares? Get over yourself Melidosian, you DO need to be concerned about parking since Uptown is your Ward and parking is problematic, time to educate yourself before you can even dream about educating anyone else. As for being a “visionary”, you are not there by a long shot.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Based on his record so far, Charlie’s a nice guy who desperately wants to be liked and is way over his skis when it comes to public policy matters. He may be the Council’s version of the Park District’s Mel Thillens, but without the tenure.

I consider myself a “green” person: I recycle, I take my fabric “shopping” bags to our grocery stores, I’ve got a rain barrel, and I even compost. But this “green” paver lot sounds like fool’s gold.

According to the HA article Zingsheim warned the Council about the “heavy clay in the soil under the parking lot.” Anybody that has ever done a “perk test” to install a septic field knows that “heavy clay” is about as impermeable as concrete. So if there’s “heavy clay” under the lot, unless you excavate all of that and replace it with sand, gravel or some other substrate that will hold and transport water downward, the water detention will be minimal.

It looks like Mayor Maloney and Alds. Moran, Melidosian and Mazzuca are advancing the Go Greenies’ agenda by pushing this project forward without one shred of evidence that it will work, much less provide $650K of value to our taxpayers and those folks still seriously impacted by flooding. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’ve just provided more insight into this situation than the entire multitude assembled around The Horseshoe, and in the gallery, on April 8 could muster. Thanks!

Agreed, this appears to be another solution looking for a problem! What’s frustrating is there is no mention in article that city staff believes the current lot has 3-4 years left of useful life and correct me if I’m wrong, the cost of $650k would be yet another unbudgeted spend of taxpayer dollars.

Projects like this can make perfect sense, but in this case we are putting the cart before the horse, not to mention the lack of data you’ve pointed out. The City’s commitment to Green and Sustainability first needs to be incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan, by including a desired state for the city when it comes to green/sustainability, the length of time targeted to achieve the desired state and a way to measure progress so we’ll know when we achieve it.

This is how Planning works in the private sector. Projects like the proposed Library Lot would not only be part of a larger commitment by the city, but they are strategically planned for and budgeted.

When done correctly as part of a Comprehensive Plan, execution of projects like the proposed green library lot at the end of the current parking lot’s useful life is more of a formality, subject to the city’s procurement policy

EDITOR’S NOTE: Alds. Moran, Melidosian and Mazucca don’ nid no stinkink Comprehensive Plan. This is just some warm-and-fuzzy one-off pandering to the Go Greenies, using MWRD money that could be put to better use – in our opinion – doing “green” alleys, assuming those would provide real, measurable detention that would actually mitigate or relieve flooding.

Who’s pet project is this, Moran’s, Melidosian’s or Mazzuca’s? Or put another way, which one of them (all?) is kissing Go Green Park Ridge’s collective ass by driving this clown car?

EDITOR’S NOTE: All of the above?

Is it a one off pandering to the go greenies or is Maloney bucking for something else with MWRD????? Clearly, Moran and Melidosian have sold out, but will learn the hard way that pet projects like this is what helped get the city into trouble with their finances not that long ago. Continued undisciplined spending like this is what the late Mayor Schmidt and Alderman Knight fought so hard to eliminate. Sad to see.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not sure we understand the “is Maloney bucking for something else with MWRD?????”

We do understand that the City was trying to get funding from the MWRD on some “green” alleys before this Library lot project sprung up, but we wouldn’t consider that as Maloney’s “bucking” for anything.

I know this is still a touchy subject for you, but I clicked on the link for Kaminski’s defense of his Axon body cam deal and read Mazzuca crediting Niles for doing what Kaminski didn’t. But didn’t Mazzuca vote every time to let Kaminski go sole-source? Why isn’t he accepting some of the blame?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because Mazzuca is like an annoying chihuahua (albeit with a U of C MBA): He will nip at your ankles until you stomp your foot and he behaves. Which is why he nipped at Kaminski’s ankles until Kaminski stomped his foot, at which point Mazzuca voted “yes”…twice…although you have to remember that the final time was “reluctantly…and I cannot emphasize ‘reluctantly’ enough.”

We assume Kaminski tossed Mazucca a Milk-Bone “small dog” treat after each such vote.

Is this Library lot Ald. Moran’s mayoral campaign kickoff.

EDITOR’S NOTE: One never knows.

During a recent budget workshop meeting where paving alleys was discussed (800K budget for 2 alley pilot) the Mayor made it very clear he would only support using green technology to pave alleys. He even rattled his sword about his ability to veto. So isn’t that hard clay referenced by Zingsheim under the alleys as well? Of course.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We believe Wayne was talking specifically about the clay under the Library lot because the City found clay when it did some work there. Does that mean there’s clay everywhere in Park Ridge, or at the same depth? Maybe, but not necessarily.

I agree with Mr. Raspanti that if this green library lot isn’t part of the City’s comprehensive plan it should not be considered. The idea that we would jump just because the corrupt jerks who run MWRD say jump is bad management, especially if we already determined that our first priority is paved alleys.

Can we please have some math!? Costs, gallons of detention, duration, etc. compared to alleys should have been a no brainer, but I guess our Council is filled with no brainers who can’t even figure out what information is needed to make an informed decision. Bozos.

I hope all the residents who attended the budget workshop in support of restarting the alley paving program remember Mayor Maloney’s veto threat if the impacted residents don’t pay the extra amount for green technology. There are residents who have been waiting 20 plus years to have their alleys paved and to now make it conditional upon a green solution at the homeowner’s expense doesn’t seem right.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Has any data been produced to demonstrate that paving the alleys, even in a “green” way, will reduce flooding on a cost-effective basis? Or are “green” alleys primarily a just a better way to pave alleys than a typical “grey” (concrete/asphalt) paved alley?

I will concede your point but would point out that anyone who has attempted to plant a tree in PR has experienced the rock hard soil. When I had flood control installed at a prior house you could literally see the clay layer when they dug the hole. I would also offer as circumstantial evidence the fact that the large puddles in our gravel alley do not soak into the ground. They remain until they evaporate, often for a week or more after rain. That would indicate to me there is something damn hard below the gravel.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There could be several reasons why “large puddles in [your] gravel alley do not soak into the ground,” including: (1) the “gravel” part of the alley has been compacted to the point that it isn’t permeable; (2) the substrate beneath that gravel is not permeable; and/or (3) there is impermeable clay beneath the substrate.

Anonymous at 10:16:

The reason I made that statement is a non-green solution for alleys will put water into the system faster than a green system.

One of the problems we have in major events is the sewer becomes surcharged and water seeks (and finds) it’s own level and that can mean a basement.

A gray alley will make the problem worse.

AND it doesn’t mean the person who’s basement gets flooded is on that block (alley), getting the “benefit” of the newly paved alley They simply could be further “upstream” or “downstream,” their water is not getting through, and they are the low point, so they get the back-up.

That’s why I’m pretty adament about this — the City cannot make matters worse, when we know it will. If you or anyone wish to hold that against me when it comes to a future election. I’m ok with that. I will work to protect homeowners as best I can and take the consequences.

I am adament that the City not contribute to this problem by putting in a gray alley where it is currently (permeable) gravel and little to none of that water makes it’s way into our sewer system.

It is worth noting that your premise is also not correct, and this was discussed during the budget workshop.

When I went to staff for prices prior to that discussion, the result was that a green alley was less actually expensive. As things went further they “adjusted” their estimates, but as I type this right now, staff has said it’s a wash (pun intended) and the costs are the same.

There is a cost difference for the library lot (the original topic that was posted here), but as of today, not for grey vs. green alleys.

Estimates can change of course, and if they do we can re-evaluate the situation and costs/benefits, but as of right now, the costs are actually slightly less for green.

I took the Mayors comments to indicate that his concern about paving the alleys is that the water that now sits in alleys (and yards along the alleys) will have to go somewhere and the added water in the sewer system (rather that sitting in the alleys) will ultimately end up in basements. He apparently believes the green method will prevent this hence the pilot. I will be very curious what they are going to measure success.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Water that simply sits in alleys, in yards, and otherwise above ground until it evaporates, does not flood basements or surcharge sewers.

We also are curious about how “they” are going to measure success. But for close to $1 million, or whatever the cost ultimately will be, “they” had better do it with data rather than b.s. anecdotes, speculation and conjecture.

The only argument I have with the Mayors statement is that our gravel alley is currently not permeable. The water sits in the alley and does not soak in. The water dissipates from puddles on the asphalt streets or concrete alleys and I still will have a large puddle behind my garage. This means much of the time I do not use my garage because I bring mud and dirty water in with me every time I pull in. People love to say gravel is better because it is permeable and you are only perpetuating that myth. If you want to say you would rather have the water stand in the 53 alleys making many of then unusable that is fine and I appreciate your candor but let’s not pretend that the water is soaking in.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We think the mayor was clear: If people want their alleys paved, the City is only going to support “green” paved alleys, not the traditional “grey” version.

PD:

This is why I am not counting on my alley ever being paved. If the Mayor wants to “do no harm”, there is no way to accurately prove that. As an example, how big of a storm will you need to call it a test? More importantly, how can they blame houses that flood for the first time on new alleys with any degree of certainty? During the labor day storm there were streets in my neighborhood that were rivers that were never that way before. There were houses that got water that had never had water before. If there had been an alley pilot they would have killed the program when it had nothing to do with the alleys.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We understand that the detention capacity of the traditional “grey” paved alleys and the detention capacity of “green” paved alleys can be measured and compared based on their respective specs, which is the DATA we’ve been talking about. Neither one will flood-proof anything, the only question is which one will do the least harm IF a paved alley is desired.

Mayor, I am curious to see a cost comparison of grey vs. green alley paving options, if available, and ongoing maintenance cost comparisons as well. Given the regular wear and tear of waste management trucks, automibiles and snow removal trucks I believe maintenance of green alleys would higher if not significantly higher. But then again if “staff” claims it to be a wash (without any specific information) then it must be true. 😉 Also, do the grey alley paving solutions being compared include any water detention component? If so, once again would be curious to see the information that supports your claim that a grey solution would make matters worse.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To do this right there should be a comparison of the water detention capabilities of unpaved alleys, “grey” alleys and “green” alleys, then a look at costs.

I am all for green alleys and am more than willing to pay the designated share for our property, even if green does cost a bit more. Hell, they can pave it in kitty litter if it gives me the same use of my alley that the other 100+ that are paved. I am not trying to be unreasonable in anyway.

EDITOR’S NOTE: At this time we can’t tell if the City – either Staff or the elected officials who have already gone “green” – have enough meaningful data to tell the difference in water detention capabilities between “green,” “grey” or kitty litter, which is why this whole situation seems to smell.

JHC, is this simple incompetence or something more?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Both?

As they go through this process I do think they need to keep in mind that those of us who live on gravel alleys are not receiving equal service. I am being taxed based on the same formula as my neighbors down the street who have full use of their paved alley. On a positive note, we will be having a regatta in our alley for the remainder of the week.

EDITOR’S NOTE: But if you’ve got an alley from which you access your garage that means you’ve got more usable land on your lot then all those folks without alleys who have to waste some of their land on a driveway.

Would you prefer the regatta in your alley or your basement?

Is CM Joe Gilmore asleep at the switch on this? It does not seem like he’s doing anything about this project other than sitting back and letting Moran, Zingsheim and Mitchell do whatever they want. This seems to be another situation like the Axon camera where he’s not really managing anything. Why are we paying him as a CM if he’s not managing?

EDITOR’S NOTE: He does seem to be MIA, doesn’t he?

PD:

The way things are right now if my property layout supported it I would put in a driveway from the street and shift the garage door to the other side. The point is that for a pretty large chunk of time it is not “usable land”. I had 4 feet of water in my basement at my prior property and spend 7K to put in a flood control system.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Whether or not your property doesn’t support a driveway from the street doesn’t change the fact that you’ve still got hundreds of square feet of land on your lot that are not dedicated to, and consumed by, a driveway. So what’s your beef?

And what does your prior property have to do with your current situation?

Your right PD. I won’t be able to use my garage for the next several weeks but what’s my beef? I should be grateful. What was I thinking.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If that’s remotely close to true, then what you are calling your “alley” would have to be a canal. And since there are no canals in Park Ridge, we’re calling b.s.

Huge puddles up and down my alley all the way across and one directly in front of my garage. If I pull cars in the garage I bring water and mud in with me and it cakes the garage floor. If one even slightly values their bike the will not ride it through that crap to get to the street. Rain is in forecast for next three days so the puddles will continue to grow. Once the forecast is clear it can take over a week for these puddles to go away. The do not soak into the ground 1\

EDITOR’S NOTE: Okay, got it. So what exactly to you want: (a) a “grey” paved alley; (b) a “green” paved alley; (c) an evenly-graded unpaved alley; (d) none of the above?

Now you apparently will argue I choose not to use the garage. Sorry but to me if I have to go through a swamp to get to the garage it is not usable. At that meeting there were others who have it worse than we do in that the alley water runs into their yard. You seem to have an in at the council sharing info so ask them. Photos were submitted by me and many others at the meeting. You think I am BSing so I can have the pleasure of paying what will equate to 1000’s of dollars for the homeowner share of the paving?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We assume you didn’t have a paved alley when you bought the house, which means you accepted the house with an unpaved alley. Your choice. And when you bought the house we assume the City didn’t promise you a paved alley by some specific time in the future, at some specific cost. Once again, your choice. And when you bought the house we assume the City didn’t promise you a smooth, level (or crowned) un-paved alley at all times. Your choice No. 3.

So what exactly is your beef?

For those who are complaining about how the alleys are here’s my questions.

Are you life long PR residents?

If not where did you live?

If Chicago where?



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