Once upon a time, Brookfield’s main fire station was located in the 3800 block of Prairie Avenue in between the Kingdom Hall and Johnson Funeral Home. And once upon a time, the village of Brookfield deemed it necessary to pave the alley behind the fire station.
And now, some 35 years or more after that alley (most of the alley, anyway) was given a coat of asphalt, that pavement is shot. Despite the occasional pothole patch, the alley remains an obstacle course of craters and broken asphalt in need of repair or removal.
To make matters worse, there’s now a parking lot, owned by the village (though the officials say they’re not completely sure the village owns it) between the funeral home and Kingdom Hall that’s used every day by people who can only exit the lot through the alley.
The Kingdom Hall members use the alley as a thoroughfare to and from their building. And impatient motorists looking to avoid traffic stacked up on Prairie Avenue when trains roll through town use the alley as a short cut, either darting back west through the east-west alley behind Irish Times or cutting through the former Cock Robin property.
And Linda and Stan Andrys are fed up with the whole situation — the traffic, the rundown alley and village’s so-far slow reaction to their call for a solution.
“I know money is difficult for everyone,” said Linda Andrys, who has lived with her husband, Stan, at a home in the 3800 block of Forest Avenue since 1976 — when the fire station was till operational, “but you can’t keep turning your head away from something that is degrading.”
While many alleys in Brookfield are lunar in their topography, almost all of those are simply gravel and can at least be graded periodically. Because this alley is nominally asphalt, it can’t be graded and is perpetually uneven and rocky.
And while the Andryses have the ability, like everyone else in Brookfield, to circulate a petition and convince their neighbors to support paving the alley and paying a special assessment, the couple believes this alley is different.
First, they say the village caused this problem when it decided to pave the alley and then abandoned it when the fire station was demolished. Second, they say the village is compounding the problem by funneling traffic into the alley by the way they’ve configured their parking lot.
Third, there are far fewer property owners with whom to split the annual cost of the special assessment. Concrete alleys cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“This is a mini-street,” said Linda Andrys. “Cars drive up onto our property to avoid the potholes.”
In July, Andrys sent a letter to the village to see if the alley would be included in the village’s five-year capital program. The letter was signed by many of their neighbors on Forest Avenue.
Not satisfied with the village’s response, she followed up Oct. 7 with a letter she sent certified mail asking for the matter to be placed on a village board agenda. She settled for making her plea to the board as part of the public comment portion of the village board’s Oct. 14 meeting. She demanded a written response from the village.
“I’m not asking for a 10-page dissertation,” Linda said.
The response she got at the village board meeting was non-committal, though officials promised to investigate the situation, including determining who exactly owned the parking lot between Johnson’s and the Kingdom Hall. Property records online appear to indicate it belongs to the village. In 2004, officials promised to order a plat of survey to settle the matter, but it’s unknown whether that ever happened.
“No matter who owns it, I think there’s something we can do with the traffic,” said Village President Kit Ketchmark. “We’ve done this before.”
As for having the alley repaved with asphalt, the response was not encouraging.
“It’s in disrepair,” said Public Works Director Dan Kaup, “but it’s the village’s policy not to re-asphalt but to maintain it as-is or ask residents if they want to [pay a special assessment] to do a full reconstruction.”
But Ketchmark didn’t close the door entirely to a solution that fell short of a resident-paid reconstruction of the alley. He said, however, that it might take some time.
“I think we need to look into this more right now,” Ketchmark said. “I think the condition of this alley is similar to a lot of alleys around town. The traffic situation I think we can deal with in some manner.”