Residents can vote on projects in 45th ward
by BRIAN NADIG
Resurfacing the tennis courts at Wilson Park and bike lane improvements on Lawrence Avenue are among the nine projects that tentatively will be on the 45th Ward participatory budget ballot, in addition to a question asking what percentage of funds should be spent on side-street resurfacing.
Alderman John Arena is one of four aldermen who use a community vote to decide how most of the ward’s $1.32 million in discretionary funds for infrastructure improvements, which are referred to as aldermanic menu funds, should be spent. Funded items in 2013 included pigeon abatement, a community garden and an artificial-surface field at Beaubien School.
Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said that information on each proposal will be presented at three project fairs which will be held April 22 to April 26 and that the vote will occur on Saturday, May 10, at Wilson Park, 4630 N. Milwaukee Ave. About 635 ward residents voted in 2013, and this year the voting age has been reduced from 16 to 14, Brugh said.
One of the proposed projects calls for planting 150, 300 or 450 trees at a cost of $514 per tree. Brugh said that the funding recommendation was based in part on concern that the area was losing trees due to the emerald ash borer infection.
Other funding requests include $150,000 for pigeon abatement at several viaducts, $10,000 for upgraded lighting at a viaduct near Pulaski Road and Avondale Avenue, $35,700 for improved lighting at a viaduct at Irving Park Road and the Kennedy Expressway, $70,000 for widening bike lanes on Lawrence Avenue between Long Avenue and Cicero Avenue, and $25,000 for decorative fencing at the north end of the pedestrian bridge over the Kennedy Expressway near Austin Avenue.
Also on the ballot are requests for $20,000 for metal neighborhood identifiers for the Jefferson Park commercial district and $100,000 for a new playground at Independence Park. The playground proposal, which would require additional funding from the Chicago Park District and other sources, was on last year’s ballot but did not get enough votes.
A proposal to resurface the tennis courts at Wilson Park also will be on the ballot. The estimated cost of the project is $158,000, but the park district has committed to providing about $91,000 for the project.
The projects listed on the 2014 ballot were determined with the help of a committee of volunteers who took suggestions at community workshops, Brugh said. Unlike last year, the amount of ward funds available for projects which fall under the jurisdiction of taxing bodies other than the City of Chicago is capped at $100,000, including improvements at parks and schools, he said.
As in 2013, voters this year will decide how $1 million of the discretionary funds will be spent, while the remaining $320,000 will be reserved for cost overruns, emergency infrastructure needs and additional side-street resurfacing. Brugh said that in 2013 all of the $320,000 that was initially set aside was spent on street resurfacing.
Voters will be asked what percentage of the $1 million should be spent on street resurfacing. Brugh said that with the effect that the harsh winter has had on area streets, he would not be surprised if the percentage is higher than last year’s 54 percent.
Brugh said that changes in the ballot are not expected but are possible. He said that a recommendation for a skateboard park was not included because it would have cost several million dollars and that no community murals were included in part because of new city rules, including an insurance requirement.