Mayor: More to do, but Oak Lawn in good shape
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com February 26, 2014 1:15AM
Updated: February 26, 2014 2:42PM
In her first State of the Village address, Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury painted a picture of a community that’s in good shape, is busy with construction and still has much more to do.
Bury spoke during an Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Oak Lawn Hilton on Feb. 11. She covered a wide range of topics and tossed out some surprises, too.
The much-discussed redevelopment of the northwest corner of 111th Street and Cicero Avenue — site of a former Kmart, a muffler shop, Flap-Jack’s restaurant and other small businesses — soon will be sailing along at a rapid pace, she said.
The anchor of the site, the upscale Mariano’s grocery store, should be open sooner than many think, she said.
“We are all anxiously anticipating construction. It will be 73,000 square feet, (it will be ready) in the late fall and we can hardly wait. A lot of it is prefab(ricated) so it should go up quickly,” she said.
Mariano’s is just part of the development that will include a bank, “6,000 square feet of retail” and two restaurants. She declined to name any potential tenants because negotiations are not yet finalized.
Oak Lawn, she said, has about 57,000 residents, making it the 23rd-largest of just under 1,300 communities in Illinois. There are about 10,000 seniors, 12,000 kids, 23,500 households and 1,200 businesses. Of those, 350 belong to the chamber of commerce, she said.
“We are not a sleepy suburb at all. We’re very powerful economically and very influential,” Bury said.
She noted the continuing expansion of Christ Medical Center, and the village’s recent multimillion-dollar commitment to a new water system that provides water to other communities as examples of Oak Lawn’s importance to the area.
“Water is the new oil. For our children’s children, fresh, clean water is one of the most critical resources they will have,” Bury said.
She noted that the village’s share of property taxes is about 11 percent of a homeowner’s tax bill, and that the average household pays about $625 per year in taxes to the village.
“That pays for streets, snow removal, police, fire and other services. It truly is an awesome value,” she said.
With two-thirds of every dollar in the village’s general fund paying salaries and benefits, the village is “challenged to try to not increase taxes,” she said.
The village government has 401 employees. Of those, 312 are full time and 89 are part time. The majority, 272, work in public safety, she said, with most of those jobs in the police and fire departments.
“The village board recently voted to eliminate pensions for part-time politicians in Oak Lawn. This is huge. Wonderful. It’s setting the tone,” she said.
She said that 641 ash trees are “in crisis” because of the emerald ash borer, an insect imported from Asia that wreaks havoc on the trees.
She reminded residents that they will be asked to vote on term limits in the coming election, and said she is “proud and appreciative that the majority of the board was enthusiastic in recommending this.”
Other high points she mentioned were the collection of 130 tons of electronic waste; six boys attaining Eagle Scout status with the troop based at St. Gerald last year; and successes enjoyed by the drama team at Oak Lawn High School, which won state a second straight year, and the band, football and speech teams at Richards High School.
In closing, she urged people to “Shop Oak Lawn,” quoting an oft-heard slogan for retailers.
“That’s more than a cute phrase. It’s a way of life for those of us who have businesses in town. The village spends about $3 million on Oak Lawn businesses, and we want to see that number increase. I know we can do it. My goal is to create a business-friendly environment in Oak Lawn. Together, we can do this,” she said.