Residents of Brookfield sent a clear message that they’re tired of driving on pothole-riddled, crumbling streets and voted convincingly to allow the village to issue $22 million in construction bonds to repair almost 40 percent of the worst residential streets over the next eight years.
With 11 of 12 precincts reporting, unofficial totals show that 60 percent of those who voted in Tuesday’s election approved of the bond issue, while 40 percent did not.
Village Manager Keith Sbiral indicated at a meeting of the village board on Monday night that staff would begin working immediately to prepare for the first issuance of bonds in late June or early July.
Meanwhile, the village’s engineering firm will complete plans for the first round of streets to be resurfaced this fall — many of them located in Brookfield’s former special service areas on the south end of town.
“We greatly appreciate the confidence and support the voters have put in us,’ said Brookfield Village President Kit Ketchmark. “It’s been an issue for a long time, but it really helps us moving forward for years in the future.”
The bonds will be rolled out in three separate issues over the next five years and will be paid off in stages over a period of 14 years. All of the bond issuances will be paid off in 10 years. Homeowners can expect their tax bills to begin ramping up after the first issuance. When all of the bonds have been issued there will be a time where the owner of a $200,000 home can expect to pay about $410 per year to service the debt.
As the bonds are paid off, that amount will ramp back down. When the last bond issuance is paid off, officials will have to determine how to fund future street improvements.
Brookfield officials took no chances in the run up to the vote, hosting four town hall sessions for residents and supplying a wealth of information, including maps of the streets that will be resurfaced over the next eight years, on the village’s website.
It’s not known yet exactly where the referendum question received the most support, but officials knew going in that many south siders who lived in former SSA areas — even those who would benefit almost immediately — were lukewarm at best to the plan while others were openly resentful.
“Moving forward, we’ve set the course for the future that this is how the streets get done, and the SSA issue moves farther and farther back in the rearview mirror,” said Ketchmark. “With this vote we’ve moved past the SSAs with this village.”
Turnout for the primary election was stronger than usual. With one precinct still not reporting voter turnout in Brookfield was 50 percent on Tuesday, more than twice as high as the presidential primary in 2012. In that election, turnout in Brookfield for a village-wide electrical aggregation referendum was a little more than 20 percent.
“There were lines at village hall the entire day,” Ketchmark said.
Election Day in Brookfield did not come without some glitches and snafus at some polling places left some voters frustrated and angry.
After being told for months that they’d be able to select a non-partisan option in order to vote on the street referendum only, there were at least three polling places where election judges either didn’t know about the non-partisan option and turned voters away or told voters they had to take a party ballot in order to cast a vote.
Ketchmark said that the problem reared its head at the polling places at St. Louise Parish in LaGrange Park, S.E. Gross Middle School in Brookfield and the Brookfield Village Hall.
And although polling places were told there would be paper non-partisan ballots delivered to the polling places by 10 a.m., said Ketchmark, they never arrived. As a result non-partisan ballots could only be cast on touch screen machines.
“There were several instances where people were told to either vote Republican or Democrat if they wanted to vote,” Ketchmark said. “So there was some confusion. What did it mean for our question? I don’t know.”