There are many issues that can arise in our village, but maybe none as divisive as street improvements. Brookfield was built up in different ways over the past 123 years.
This has served to divide our community for decades and decades — north side versus south side, SSA versus non SSA. Some argue they had to pay for their streets, while others got them for “free.” And there are some who just don’t care about the condition of streets versus those who want good streets.
It’s fair to say that there are very few taxpayers anywhere who welcome increased taxes. But street improvements are essential to maintaining our community and the individual investment each of us have in it.
Some residents on the north end paid for their streets through special assessments nearly 40 years ago. Some on the south end of town paid for new curbs and sewers when their homes were built through special service areas nearly 25 years ago.
There is a small segment of town that saw their streets rebuilt through special service area assessments, and they still have a couple years to pay. And then there are those residents whose properties front one of our major roads where the village was able to obtain federal grant funding to cover 75 percent of the cost — nearly $10 million savings in direct costs to the residents over the past 15 years. (Unfortunately, these grants are not available for our remaining streets.)
All of this leads us to the place we are at today. Nearly 40 percent of our streets are rated in the worst condition, including the SSA streets on the south side of town. These are streets that need attention now, and would be some of the first to be resurfaced before costs escalate.
It is easy to understand why some who paid directly for their streets more than two decades ago have concerns about this referendum. But the question comes back to this: How will we move closer to getting those streets repaved? No one got “free” streets in the past, nor will there be “free” streets in the future.
Some say they oppose this referendum because they have a new street, or their street is in good condition, or their street is not listed to be repaired. Do we only drive on the street in front of our home?
There isn’t a street built that will last forever. Even though a street may not be one of the worst streets now, it will need improvement at some point in the future. Voting for this referendum will put our village in a much better position to tackle future streets when they are ready to be resurfaced. But we have to first get past this current hurdle.
On March 15, the residents of Brookfield will be asked to approve a comprehensive plan for $22 million in street improvements over the next eight years. This plan has all taxpayers, residential and commercial, sharing in all of the costs for street improvements. I ask that you vote “yes.”
Kit P. Ketchmark, village president