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45th Ward Residents to Get Say in How $1M is Spent in Ward

 Residents of the 45th Ward will decide whether to use $500,000 from Ald. John Arena's discretionary budget to fund a streetscaping project on Irving Park Road between Elston Avenue and Pulaski Road.
Residents of the 45th Ward will decide whether to use $500,000 from Ald. John Arena's discretionary budget to fund a streetscaping project on Irving Park Road between Elston Avenue and Pulaski Road.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

JEFFERSON PARK — Residents of the 45th Ward will have some tough choices to make later this month and in May when they get to vote on 18 projects seeking funding from Ald. John Arena's discretionary budget.

Among the choices will be plans for a new playground at Roberts Square Park, a new artificial-turf field for Beaubien Elementary School and dozens of other projects designed to spruce up Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Old Irving Park and Gladstone Park.

Arena will host three project expos that will give residents a chance to learn more about the items on the ballot — and give their proponents an opportunity to campaign for votes.

"These expos are really important for us to get more feedback from the community," said Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff, adding that items may be added to the final ballot or deleted.

The expos will take place from 7-9 p.m. April 9 at the Filament Theater, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 7-9 p.m. April 11 at St. Constance Church, 5843 W. Strong St.; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 13 at the Copernicus Cultural and Civic Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave.

This is the first year Arena will use the participatory budget process to spend his $1.3 million discretionary budget, which is also known as "menu" money. About $300,000 will be held back to cover cost overruns and emergency projects, and the price tags for the various projects are still tentative, Brugh said.

Last year, Arena used this money to repave streets, build sidewalks, install new curbs and gutters, and pave two alleys with a permeable surface in an effort to reduce runoff. 

At six community meetings this fall, attendees came up with more than 100 ideas about how the $1 million should be spent. Over the last several months, committees whittled down the suggestions. The alderman and his staff picked the items that will be voted upon.

Voters will also determine what percentage of the 45th Ward discretionary budget will be used to repave streets in the ward. 

Brugh said he was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support for both bicycle projects as well as arts and beautification efforts.

"We're really encouraged by all the enthusiasm," Brugh said, adding that Arena has focused on beautification efforts since taking office.

Voters will be asked to spend $120,000 to create a protected bike lane on Milwaukee Avenue between Lawrence Avenue and Addison Street, and to set aside another $7,000 to $10,000 for on-street bike corrals. It would cost another $32,000 to build a bike lane from Lawrence to Manila avenues.

Artistically-inclined voters can approve plans to spend $60,000 to paint 10 to 12 murals throughout the ward or to spend between $28,000 and $40,000 to build sculptures at seven locations in Jefferson Park and Portage Park.

Up for a vote will also be a $577,000 project to install ornamental street lights along Irving Park Road between Elston Avenue and Pulaski Road. Or, if voters prefer, they can fund a stoplight at the Jefferson Park CTA Transit Station, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave. The cost for that project hasn't been determined, Brugh said.

It would cost $250,000 to build a playground at Roberts Square Park, 5200 W. Argyle St. The artificial turf project at Beaubien, 5025 N. Laramie Ave., would cost $59,000. An effort to restore the water play area at Independence Park needs about $400,000. 

Other projects on the ballot include new streetlights, light pole painting, new lights for viaducts and $30,000 for signs that will identify some of the different communities in the 45th Ward.

A community garden at Jefferson Park, 4822 N. Long Ave., which would be used to grow food for the Our Lady of Victory Church and St. John Lutheran Church food pantry, is asking for $1,500. 

In addition, Olive's Neighborhood Garden for the Hungry at Ainslie Street and Laramie Avenue wants $8,000 to expand.

Voting will take place from April 29 to May 3 at the 45th Ward Office, 4754 N. Milwaukee Ave. Locations and times for voting from May 3-5 have yet to be announced.