Residents to vote on ward discretionary funds
by Brian Nadig
A new playground at Roberts Square Park, artificial turf at Beaubien School and a new stoplight at the Jefferson Park CTA terminal are among the projects that under consideration for funding as part of the 45th Ward’s participatory budgeting process.
Alderman John Arena (45th) has scheduled three community expos at which residents can learn about the two dozen or so infrastructure improvement projects which will be on the ward’s discretionary funding ballot on May 4 and 5. Residents age 16 and older who live either within the ward’s 2011 boundaries or the recently redistricted 2015 boundaries will be eligible to vote on which projects they prefer.
Arena is one of four aldermen who will spend most of their ward’s annual $1.32 million in discretionary funds based on a community vote. In addition to selecting projects, residents will be asked to decide what percentage of the funds should go toward street resurfacing, and $320,000 will be reserved for cost overruns and high-priority projects.
The expos will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, at the Filament Theater, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 11, Saint Constance Church, 5843 W. Strong St., and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at the Copernicus Cultural and Civic Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave.
“These expos will be kind of science fair-style presentations,” Arena’s chief of staff Own Brugh said. “It’s an opportunity to discuss projects with committee members. It’s not something that you have to be there the whole time.
“The projects will cost a couple thousand of dollars to a couple hundred thousand. It will be a wide range.”
Some of the higher-cost proposals are a streetscaping project on Irving Park Road between Elston Avenue and Pulaski Road at more than $500,000 and a new playground at Roberts Square Park, 5200 W. Argyle St., at about $270,000. Brugh said that budget committee members are looking into other funding sources, such the Chicago Park District, to pay for a portion of the playground.
Another proposal calls for a $60,000 artificial turf field at Beaubien School, 5025 N. Laramie Ave. The school currently has no playlot and no playground, and students play outdoor sports on pavement.
The ballot also will include proposals for the installation of a stoplight and a crosswalk in front of the CTA terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., painting lampposts on Milwaukee Avenue between Foster Avenue and Peterson Avenue, and creating bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue between Lawrence Avenue and Addison Street. The bike lanes likely would require lifting rush-hour parking bans so that the right traffic lane could become a permanent area for parking and bike use, Brugh said.
The ballot also will include a proposal to spend about $1,500 for a community garden at Jefferson Park, 4822 N. Long Ave., that would benefit a food pantry operated by the Our Lady of Victory Church and Saint John Lutheran Church, Brugh said.
Funding proposals also will be on the ballot for the Olive’s Neighborhood Garden for the Hungry at Ainslie Street and Laramie Avenue and the Saint Robert Bellarmine Community Spirit Garden at Higgins and Central avenues. The Olive’s garden proposal includes the construction of a shed, while up to $11,000 is being sought for the spirit garden, which is scheduled to be constructed this spring on the former site of a used car lot.
The ballot also will include proposals for a dozen community murals and a plan to use the covers of electric switching boxes at about 100 intersections as “art tablets,” Brugh said.
Arena has said that community, school and park groups are encouraged to campaign on behalf of the projects that they support. Voting locations for the weekend of May 4 and 5 have not been determined, but early voting will be available at the 45th Ward office, 4754 N. Milwaukee Ave., from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, April 29 to May 3, Brugh said.
Last fall Arena held several town hall meeting at which funding suggestions were gathered. Since then, four committees consisting of residents and local business owners have been researching the recommendations and working with Arena to establish a list of finalists for the ballot.