Kadner: Sheriff asks Robbins to suspend quarry deal
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org November 6, 2013 9:10PM
The building on the right is the listed address for ALM Resources, LLC, 50 Forest Avenue in Riverside, IL. The Cook County Sheriff expressed concern to Robbins that a development company that wants to operate a limestone quarry and underground mine is headquartered in an apartment building. Actually, the building is condominiums. | Phil Kadner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 9, 2013 10:32AM
Political contributions to elected officials and “vague, misleading contract terms” are among the reasons Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart cited for asking Robbins to “suspend” its development of a limestone quarry.
In a letter to Mayor Tyrone Ward delivered Tuesday, Dart asked the village to immediately “cease and desist” efforts to acquire land through quick-take legislation.
Dart, whose office launched an investigation into the proposed development last week, states in his letter to Ward that his office has turned up “significant areas of concerns” about the village’s contract with ALM Resources LLC.
“While the village desperately needs a revenue stream,” Dart notes, a royalty schedule set forth in a May 7, 2013, Acquisitions and Development Agreement is “vague, misleading and uncertain.”
Specifically, the sheriff notes that ALM would receive 95 percent of the gross revenue generated for several years after the quarry is fully operational, “but ALM is not required to make any payments to the village until IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) has agreed to the use of aggregate products in IDOT construction projects.’”
Under the terms of the contract, Dart states, “the village will receive no revenues if they breach any terms of the Agreement.”
SouthtownStar staff writer Casey Toner revealed last month that the project would put control of 320 acres, more than 20 percent of Robbins’ land, into a private-public partnership that includes ALM Resources, the village and Rib Mountain Aggregate.
The initial phase of the industrial project would include a limestone quarry, but it later would include a large underground mine beneath existing homes and businesses and also asphalt and ready-mix plants.
The village would use its power of eminent domain to take control of the 320 acres and turn it over to the developer through the public-private partnership, called Robbins Resources.
In his letter to the mayor, Dart notes that ALM and persons and entities related to ALM made multiple contributions to the political committees of village officials, a detail first reported in the SouthtownStar.
Under the provisions of the contract with ALM, Dart indicates that Robbins would have to take “all actions reasonably necessary to obtain quick-take legislation” to authorize an expedited process to take and demolish about 50 homes.
Darts asks village officials to “cease and desist” any efforts to introduce a quick-take bill in the Legislature “during the pendency of the investigation.”
He specifically cites eight areas of concern about the agreement between Robbins and ALM.
They include a $100,000 ALM escrow payment to reimburse the village for costs associated with the introduction and passage of quick-take legislation, and a provision that ALM “shall approve any and all consultants involved with the required quick-take legislation.”
“ALM’s main office appears to be an apartment in Riverside,” the sheriff states, including a photograph of the building.
Dart raises questions about Rib Mountain Aggregate, which is to manage day-to-day mining operations of the quarry site. He says its address is listed as 703 Childs in Wheaton, “but the company is not listed on the buildings’ signage. Rib Mountain Aggregate’s phone number is answered by the Will Group, a parent company whose project list does not contain any mining projects.”
The sheriff also notes that a “provision within the contract prohibits any party from ‘challenging the validity of the contract,’ and the contract also requires the village to notify ALM of any requests made for public information related to the proposed development.
Cara Smith, a spokeswoman for Dart who worked as an assistant Illinois attorney general for several years, told me, “I have read a lot of legal documents over the years but never seen anything like this one.”
Dart opened an investigation into the Robbins development plan after stories appeared in the SouthtownStar and a local resident called his inspector general’s office. Dart created the office of inspector general this year to assist suburban residents concerned about political corruption.
Early this year, after unprocessed rape kits, some dating to nearly 30 years ago, were found in the Robbins police evidence room, Dart held a town hall meeting with Robbins residents to announce that sheriff’s police would be patrolling the streets and assisting in criminal investigations.
Of particular interest to me is why former Mayor Irene Brodie was asked to sign the development agreement with ALM. By May 7, voters in Robbins had elected Ward as the new mayor, and he was about to take office. Brodie had announced months earlier she would not seek re-election.
For months before that, residents and others close to Brodie had questioned whether her elderly age had diminished her mental abilities. And despite questions raised at public forums, she has not issued a public statement since the development deal came to light.
In my experience, any newly elected mayor would normally howl in protest if a lame-duck mayor signed a major development deal. While Ward was a village trustee prior to becoming mayor and voted in favor of the plan, it seems strange that he wouldn’t want to be the mayor signing it and claiming the credit.
Village officials lobbied state Reps. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) and Will Davis (D-Hazel Crest) to pass quick-take legislation during the fall veto session of the General Assembly. Rita and Davis initially expressed interest but backed off after newspaper stories and public protests escalated.
ALM officials claim Robbins would eventually receive $140 million in royalty payments and property and sales tax revenue from the development.
Dart’s investigation is continuing. And that’s a very good thing.