North Riverside is looking to hire a new attorney to watch over village dealings, after about a quarter of a century using the same firm.
The change comes about at a time when the village is looking to create a development plan for the current National Guard armory property, and to finish updating its ordinances.
Arnold Karolewski, with the Chicago-based firm Chuhak & Tecson PC, said he must resign from being the village lawyer to take care of his sick mother. The village had hired firm founder Joe Tecson to represent the village in the early 1980s, but he retired in April.
“Tecson’s firm has been with us so long, there’s nobody here in the village who can remember when they were hired,” said Guy Belmonte, village administrator.
Mayor Richard Scheck said the firm no longer expresses an interest in working with the village, so he’s moved on to interviewing for a new attorney. Tecson did not return a call for comment.
On Oct. 11, the village Board of Trustees interviewed David Silverman, a principal at Joliet-based Mahoney, Silverman and Cross Ltd. The firm already represents villages such as Elwood, Frankfort, Oswego and Shorewood, but does not handle any municipalities in Cook County.
“There are some differences in the counties, such as how taxes are collected,” Silverman admitted, “but all cities and villages govern by the same municipal code. We don’t see Cook County as an obstacle; we think we can pick up any differences quickly.”
Scheck said the village is going to be working hard on planning issues in the next few years, and wants an attorney that can keep up and make suggestions.
“We’re landlocked, and we need to get creative how we’re going to continue to redevelop the area. For example, we need someone who can help us with the armory property,” Scheck said.
The U.S. Army still uses the armory, located north of Cermak Road and west of First Avenue, and has not announced any plans to leave. The village annexed the property last year to get a head start on zoning in case the armory does someday close.
North Riverside was recently sued by the village of Broadview regarding the armory. Broadview, which claims a small border with the armory, said it wasn’t given a chance to oppose the annexation.
The case, which also includes the Army Corps of Engineers, is in the discovery stage before the United States District Court, Eastern Division.
Scheck has said his village believes the annexation will stand, and that early zoning will prevent unwanted development.
Silverman has some experience with redeveloping old armory land. He was a special consultant for the massive redevelopment of the old Joliet Arsenal, the former TNT manufacturing site, and now home to one of the state’s largest industrial developments and a proposed 3.4-million-square-foot Wal-Mart distribution center.
“I worked with the Army and the development authority on that project,” Silverman said.
The attorney said, if hired, he would be joined by firm partner Eric Hanson, who could not make the interview because of a personal engagement.
At the meeting, Silverman gave Scheck a copy of his fee proposal, but neither he nor the mayor would discuss that figure. Karolewski is getting a retainer of $43,000 a year.
Scheck said he has a couple other firms in mind, but is not sure whether he will ask them to a future meeting to be interviewed. He said he hopes to have a new firm hired by January, though he said Karolewski will hang around to ease the transition until the end of the year.
“We’re a bunch of dreamers on this board, we want someone who knows how to watch over us,” the mayor said.
Board nixes no turn signs
Also at Monday’s meeting, the board rejected a request to place restrictive turn signs during rush hour on Cermak Road at Second and Fourth avenues. Residents of those streets say too many cars cut through their street during rush hour, but a police count during peak times showed only about 10 cars an hour. The board decided to place a traffic counter at the streets to get more accurate numbers.
Finally, the board agreed to look into creating an ordinance that would allow code enforcement to issue tickets that have immediate financial penalties to violators. Belmonte said he would gather similar ordinances and bring suggestions back to the board.