Old divisions die hard. And in Brookfield, the north-south division has had a remarkably long shelf life. It’s something that the village needs to resolve once and for all.
Whether a referendum to fund street repairs will be the thing that finally ends it, who knows? Our guess is that it won’t, at least right away. In fact, if the March 15 referendum succeeds, it may temporarily deepen whatever resentment still exists with those people who reside in recently paid off special service areas and those special service areas who will still be paying during the next couple of years.
But it’ll do no good and it makes no sense. Brookfield residents have got to stop being prisoners of the village’s history. The village was developed in starts and stops throughout almost an entire century. Neighborhoods appeared from the open prairie sporadically. First were S.E. Gross’ original subdivisions. Much later came the neighborhoods north of 31st Street and south of Shields Avenue.
That meant the infrastructure arrived at different times. It wouldn’t have crossed the minds of those building homes in the new neighborhoods on the south end that at one time, north siders had to pay for their streets, sewers and sidewalks, because it happened so long before.
Back in 1980s and 1990s, village government decided that they would continue a longstanding policy of creating special service areas when developing infrastructure in new neighborhoods.
It led to Brookfield finally being fully developed, but it rankles some homeowners who feel they somehow they are paying for something that others get for free. Now, why Brookfield decided to create a special service area to repair a north side neighborhood in 1999, is a wonder. In fact, it was a bad policy and one clearly unusable as a long-term, village-wide capital plan.
But we are where we are. Brookfield is still one village and it needs to address infrastructure as one village, not as a collection of insulated subdivisions.
Here’s a tip: Nothing is free for anyone, north side or south side. Local governments don’t have large piles of money that arrive from the heavens to build and rebuild residential streets.
Sure, once in a while the village might be able to snag a few hundred grand in grant money and use it toward streets. It happened a few years ago and a few blocks got repaved that way.
Instead of thinking of it as someone getting something for free, think of it as everybody else getting a break from having to pay for it. The same thing happened when Brookfield was able to obtain grant funding to repave Washington, Prairie, Maple and Grand. All of Brookfield’s taxpayers still paid. They just didn’t pay as much. That’s a win for the whole village.
Special service areas are slowly, but truly, going away. Moving forward they shouldn’t (and haven’t for the past 16 years) be considered as a solution for streets. But residents can’t let past policy derail an actual, sustainable plan for the future.
That helps no one.