On June 26 the Village of Brookfield will be holding a village board meeting. One of the topics of discussion will be Special Assessment #340 which proposes to pave the alley between the 3100 blocks of Cleveland and Morton avenues.
This Special Assessment was initiated by a petition circulated by the owners of Hitzeman Funeral Home earlier this year and received enough signatures to motivate the village’s Board of Local Improvements to circulate a ballot to move forward with the official process to get the alley paved.
On April 24 the Board of Local Improvements met, and it was stated that Special Assessment #340 would move forward primarily based on the village receiving 8 “yes” ballots to 7 “no” votes.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, I requested a list of the property owners who voted on this matter. I was surprised to learn that while there were 15 total votes counted for Special Assessment #340, only 14 out of 17 property owners voted on this project.
This motivated me to circulate a letter regarding this matter which put forth the hypothesis that Hitzeman had received two votes during the balloting to all of the residential property owners’ one vote. Mr. Hitzeman was nice enough to call me and confirm that he, indeed, had been given two votes to everyone else’s one, a point that had not been pointed out at anytime during the balloting process by the village.
Aside from this fact, the village still has not been able to provide a clear picture of the individual costs associated with this project to the property owners. We have been given an estimated amount per front foot of property (currently stated at $104/foot) and a total project estimate of approximately $166,000.
The outstanding question remains as to how much the assessments of those property owners who do not have alley access will have their individual roles reduced and, therefore, how much in addition residents with alley access will have to pay towards their roles, beyond the above stated amount per front foot.
The village has not been able to give any sort of estimate as to how much these amounts will be, but does insist that in the past the assessments have been made “fair” based on each property owner’s situation.
The two points above motivated one of my neighbors to circulate a second petition prior to the Board of Local Improvements meeting on June 12 asking that the village reconsider its decision to move forward with this project.
Twelve out of 17 property owners on the block affected by this assessment, a 70-percent majority, signed this petition. A copy of this document was presented to each member of the Board of Local Improvements during the June 12 meeting. Only Trustee Stevanovich voiced any concern with the fact that 12 property owners (including some that originally returned a “yes” ballot) signed a document voicing their opposition to this project, whereas only seven property owners out of 14 (no majority) who originally returned the village’s ballot voted “yes.”
At the insistence of President Garvey, no other member of the Board of Local Improvements seconded Trustee Stevanovich’s motion to table this matter, which means it will go in front of the Village Board of Trustees on June 26.
As a relatively new resident of Brookfield (we have been here for two years this month), I guess I don’t have an intimate knowledge of how the village government has operated in the past.
I assumed that the elected officials of this village would carry out the will of the majority, especially when the property owners are being asked to bear such a large amount of the cost of a project of this nature. Under the current estimate, with a 75-foot lot, I am looking at $7,800 to pave my portion of the alley, not counting the additional dollars I will be asked to pay once the final roll is determined.
This assessment amount is in addition to the projected tax increases expected this year. Other residents who have lived in Brookfield much longer than I are also confused with this process. As in the past, the village has always taken into consideration and acted on the voice of the majority.
It was disheartening for me to go in front of a group of elected officials (I spoke during the June 12 meeting and presented the aforementioned petition to the board) to speak for what is a clear majority of property owners only to have one trustee voice any concern.
My main motivation for writing this editorial is to make other citizens (or would be citizens) of Brookfield aware of this situation and bring to their attention that, with the current village government, the majority does not always rule and that, for whatever reason, the will of a commercial property owner takes precedent over that of a majority of residents.
I would ask any village trustee who reads this to please consider the will of your constituents when asked to vote on Special Assessment #340 on June 26 and would ask that all citizens of this village pay close attention to how our elected officials vote on this matter.
Michael Horvith is a Brookfield resident who lives within the proposed Special Assessment #340 area