Village Officials Meet with Will County Residents at Talala School

talala-school-neighborhood-meeting

A resident asks to be recognized during the Q&A at the neighborhood meeting at Talala School. (Photo: Wendy Heise)

Photo Gallery: Park Forest Town Meeting – Talala School

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Village officials met with Will County residents last Thursday evening at Talala Elementary School. The meeting got underway at 7:00 p.m., and residents had time to ask questions after officials gave brief reports to residents.

The meeting began with Mayor John Ostenburg giving a housing report to residents. According to the mayor, there are 895 single family houses in the Will County section of Park Forest. Among these, there are 41 foreclosures, or 4.6%, and 24 are vacant. There are 129 rental units, or 14% of the total. There is one group home, and 35 homes in this area of town are subsidized.

The Building Department issued a total of 486 citations in this neighborhood during the past year.

The mayor compared those figures to the 5 years ago when officials last had a neighborhood meeting at Talala. At that time, there were 826 single family homes,
and only 23, or 2.8%, were in foreclosure. At that time, only 17 homes were vacant. There were 73 rentals, or 8.8% of the total number, and 38 of the homes were subsidized. This number decreased by three.

The Building Department issued only 249 citations for various violations that year.

Mayor Ostenburg said officials are watching one situation, where “one entity may have bought 20 properties in Park Forest.”

Police Chief Tom Fleming next introduced officers and detectives in attendance who could answer questions of residents on police matters. Fleming focused first on the Village’s Crime Free Housing Ordinance. According to Chief Fleming, there are approximately 2000 rental properties in Park Forest and 600 landlords.

“They don’t have a choice. They have to come in,” Fleming said of the classes landlords are now required to take. Landlords found in violation of the ordinance can be fined up to $1,500 per day.

“We get great response,” Fleming said. “Once they getup to $4,500 [in fines], we stop ticketing, we talk to them. They’re going to pay us that 4500, we’ll be their partner again.”

“I think we found the language that they understand and appreciate, and it’s money,” Tom Mick said. “We finally found a mechanism that really speaks their language.” Mick said saying that before the ordinance it was difficult to get in touch with some of the “absentee” landlords.

Mr. Derry Smith asked about graffiti on a sidewalk near his house. Village Manager Tom Mick replied, “Our goal is to get it covered. I’m well aware of where it is in front of your house. I apologize we haven’t taken care of soon.”

Resident Kay Myers asked about Thorn Creek Town Homes: “What about the apartments? Are they included in the crime-free housing ordinance?” Tom Mick said the apartments are subject to the ordinance. “Yes, it’s definitely with crime free housing,” Chief Fleming added.

Resident Willie Mae Banks asked about care for lawns of foreclosed houses, “What are your procedures for keeping up the lawns on homes that have been foreclosed?” Director of Community Development Larrie Kerestes said it is the responsibility of the owner to keep up the property. “If they don’t cut the grass, the Village has the authority to cut the grass and lien the property. If the mortgage company still owns it, letters will go out to the mortgage company; we will follow up on those, reissue citations to those banks.”

Another resident noted that some Park Foresters are not picking up the Penny Saver after it is delivered, adding to the level of garbage in the streets. According to the resident, in some cases, the Penny Saver hits the walkway between streets. Mayor Ostenburg responded, “We can look into that with the company.” Manager Tom Mick added, “It’s a source of frustration for everyone.”

The meeting lasted two hours, and many members of Village staff stayed after to answer more questions of residents who did not get a chance to ask during the formal meeting.

The writer is a Village Trustee in Park Forest.

Photo Gallery: Park Forest Town Meeting – Talala School