Budget, remains halt two projects
by BRIAN NADIG
Work has stopped on two construction projects at Oak Park Avenue and Forest Preserve Drive for different reasons.
The state budget crisis has forced a work stoppage on the $70.5 million 200-bed Illinois Veterans Home at Chicago at the southwest corner of the intersection, and the reconstruction of Oak Park between Forest Preserve Driver and Irving Park Road has been delayed due to the discovery of human remains under the roadway.
Governor Bruce Rauner has halted the release of funds for the construction of the five-story veterans home. Crews were installing the exterior walls of the facility in the late spring, but work was halted on June 30.
State Senator Mulroe (D-10) said that the work stoppage makes no sense because funds already have been allocated for the project and that the federal government will reimburse the state for some of the expenses. He said that too many of the projects and programs being halted by Rauner are meant for the "most vulnerable" members of our society and that Illinois veterans deserve better treatment.
In addition, the city Department of Transportation has announced that plans are being made to remove human remains which recently were found under a portion of Oak Park Avenue. Oak Park runs through the Read-Dunning site where thousands of indigents and mentally ill, many of them patients of the Chicago Read Mental Hospital, were buried in the 1800s and early 1900s.
A residential project on a portion of the site was delayed about 25 years ago when construction crews found human bones. A memorial in honor of those buried there was later built.
Last spring a city official said that it was believed that any bodies where Oak Park is located were removed decades ago but that crews would use ground-penetrating radar to ensure that human remains are not there. At the same time historian Barry Fleig, who spent years documenting the Read-Dunning graves, said that there was no doubt in his mind that bodies remained under Oak Park.
Alderman Nicolas Sposato (38th) has said that there also are concerns that there are graves under the site of a planned park, which would have a sports field with an artificial surface near the northeast corner of Irving Park and Oak Park.