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Kadner: Rain falls inside this Metra station

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Updated: April 22, 2014 6:31AM



Commuters open their umbrellas inside the Metra station in Richton Park on rainy days to keep dry from a leaky roof, according to Mayor Rick Reinbold.

For two years, Reinbold has tried to get the commuter rail agency to make repairs to the roof, but he’s frustrated by unfulfilled promises to “get to it soon.”

“This is really the gateway to our community,” he said. “It’s the first thing that a commuter sees when a commuter comes to the village of Richton Park and the last thing you see when you leave the village of Richton Park.”

In February, the mayor said, so much water was “pouring through the ceiling” that buckets were placed on the floor, “but they were overflowing,” creating an inch or two of standing water.

“So as commuters got off the train, they literally had to walk through this standing water to get to their vehicles,” Reinbold said.

During a tour of the train station with me, Reinbold pointed out several patches that were made to the ceiling but were falling apart.

“It was a shoddy repair job to begin with, but you can see where the water has leaked through the patches and mold has formed, which is an unhealthy condition for the passengers,” he said.

And then there’s the graffiti.

“We have an ordinance in the village that requires property owners to quickly address the removal of graffiti once it has been observed,” the mayor said. “It has to be addressed in 48 to 72 hours or we take them to court. But railroad property is exempt from municipal ordinance, so we can’t enforce our village codes to get Metra to remove the graffiti.”

Reinbold noted that several Southland towns with more resources than Richton Park have built new Metra stations in recent years, including Tinley Park, Oak Forest and Orland Park. The Oak Forest station opened a few months ago, financed by $1.3 million in federal funds, $1 million from the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association and $1 million from the city of Oak Forest.

“I’m not looking for a brand new train station,” Reinbold said, noting that the Richton Park station, on Sauk Trail one block east of Governors Highway, was constructed in 1987. “I just want Metra to maintain the train station we have. I really don’t think it would take that much money to maintain it, and it would have cost even less if it had been repaired sooner.”

A Metra spokesman told me the agency is aware of the problem with the leaking roof and was waiting for snow to melt before making repairs.

Reinbold laughed when I told him that.

“I’ve been hearing that sort of thing for two years now,” he said. “You know, this station was the last one on the Electric Line to get indoor toilets. Until a couple of years ago, people had to use outhouses, Port-a-Potties, that were placed outside the station.

“I would really like to see what Metra’s maintenance budget is each year, how much they spend and where they spend it. I certainly haven’t seen much evidence that the agency is spending the money on communities like ours.”

Reinbold said his staff has met with Metra officials and he had village engineers assess the roof problems.

“But all (Metra keeps) telling us is they’re going to get to it. But they never seem to do that,” he said. “So I’m very frustrated because if this was any other public building in the village, we would be issuing building code violations. It ought to be an embarrassment to Metra, and it certainly is embarrassing to me as mayor.”

Reinbold pointed to sagging drywall on the ceiling over a ramp leading to the train boarding area and noted that brackets had been placed to hold the ceiling in place.

“That was their solution,” he said. “But you can see the drywall has continued to sag, and you have to wonder what’s going to happen if water builds up in there.

“I’m also concerned because you can see that the patches they have in place have begun to crumble,and if we get a heavy rain this spring that could fall on someone’s head.

Paint is cracked and peeling on the outside of the building, which from a distance looks nice and modern. As we talked, Reinbold walked over to a rusty hand railing and peeled off a clump of cracked paint.

“How much would it take to fix this?” he said. “Not a lot.”

He then took me to an area with vending machines and pointed to the floor between a wall and one of the machines where the floor was coated in dirt and slime.

“Maybe it’s my military background, but I just look at that and find it unacceptable,” Reinbold said. “Does anyone check on the janitor to see if he’s doing his job? Where’s the pride?”

Graffiti is etched onto nearly every pane of glass in a warming station and into the window frames of the station. There’s more graffiti covering an advertising sign for a Notre Dame executive management class in Chicago that urges people to “Make an impact.”

Some graffiti artist did, giving the model in the advertisement some smiling teeth, embellishing her eyebrows and extending her hair.

“I’d ask for some sort of rebate if I was Notre Dame,” Reinbold said.

While Reinbold said he’s not asking for a new train station, “I’ve never been invited to the table” when Metra officials discuss distributing funds for new construction.

“It just seems to go back to Metra’s attitude that some suburbs get attention and others don’t,” the mayor said. “But I’m sure the fees they charge are about the same for everyone, depending on the distance traveled.

“Why allow something to deteriorate like this when with a little paint, by showing a little concern, you can prevent bigger problems from happening? In the long run it would save money.

“The only reason I’m going public is that I’m just frustrated by the lack of action. I’ve tried everything else to get these problems fixed.”



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