Park Ridge Mayor Marty Maloney touted green alleys, security improvements at City Hall and the possible addition of a mental health officer when he gave his annual State of the City address to the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce on February 1st.
Maloney said the city designed two green alleys last year and will build two more this year. There are six more alleys that have been selected through a lottery process to become green alleys.
In Park Ridge, a green alley differs from a regular alley in that its surface allows rainwater to drip through its permeable brick paver surface into groundwater and be stored in a granular base, a layer of several different gradations of stone, approximately three feet. deep, to avoid overloading the local sewer system during rain, according to Public Works Director Sarah Mitchell.
“There are still about 50 unpaved alleys here in the city,” Maloney said. Currently, those alleys are mostly filled with gravel.
The city shares the cost of building a green alley with residents in what is called a Special Service Area. Mitchell told the Pioneer Press that residents, on average, spend $10,000 on a green alley behind their homes.
Maloney said he and the City Council were aware of residents’ complaints about some bright signs and lights at new businesses on Northwest Highway near Meacham Avenue. He said city officials are looking at what they can do to enforce the sign code.
“Once we start going out and enforcing those (sign code rules), everyone has to follow the rules. And that’s where we’re headed,” Maloney said.
Police and fire pension.
Maloney said that in the budget process for next year, city officials decided to increase funding for police and fire pensions by up to $150,000 each.
Illinois state law requires that all municipalities fund at least 90% of police and fire pensions by 2040.
“It’s actually above our recommended funding level. What it allows us to do is more quickly achieve the funding levels that we have committed to our pension funds,” Maloney said. “Investments like that now will pay bigger dividends in the future.”
Fire Station Renovations
Fire Station 35, near the intersection of Devon and Cumberland avenues, had its first round of bids for renovations approved by the city council in January.
“Most of that work starts this year,” Maloney said. “It is a long-awaited project, it is a commitment that the City Council has made with the men and women who are working for the city.
Maloney said that before 2024, Park Ridge residents had to pay a percentage to the city for sidewalk repairs on their property. “This year, through the budget process, the City Council decided to remove that. That’s why we continue to take steps to try to keep as much money in the pockets of our residents,” he said.
Mental health resources
Park Ridge currently employs a social worker in the police department, according to Maloney. He said the previous year there was an increase in the need for those services for city employees and that the current social worker has been working in other departments to meet the mental health needs of their employees.
Maloney said as the council moves through the budget process, it is looking for opportunities to hire another mental health specialist. When asked if they would work in the police department or deal with non-city employees, Maloney said the city is still deciding on that in the budget process.
Salt dome relocation
In 2022, Park Ridge voters approved $33.4 million in renovations to the Park Ridge Park District, which is a separate government entity from the City of Park Ridge, for various improvements to the Oakton Ice Arena. The renovations would expand the ice rink with a driving range, covered grass and a concession stand where alcohol can be served. The city currently has its salt dome located near the ice rink on Park District property, so it will have to relocate it before park district expansion work can begin.
The city is in the process of building its salt dome on city property at 290 Busse Highway.
Maloney said no migrants bused in from Texas have arrived in the city, like other Chicago-area suburbs. Some suburbs have passed ordinances that would prohibit unscheduled deliveries, but Maloney said in conversations with city staff and the legal team: “It was not considered necessary.”
“It could be a tool in the tool bag if we decide to do it. But we haven’t,” Maloney said. The city’s current plan would be to try to reroute the bus to Chicago or coordinate with Metra police if migrants have been dropped off at a Metra station and then send them to Chicago on the next available arriving train.