JEFFERSON PARK — For the second year in a row, residents of the 45th Ward will decide how to spend Ald. John Arena’s $1 million discretionary budget.
Arena will host five neighborhood assemblies in the coming weeks to begin to develop the infrastructure projects that residents will ultimately vote on in the spring.
“This exciting process offers transparency into how the city spends your tax dollars and gives [voters] a real voice — by offering ideas and voting for specific projects — into how that money is spent in our community,” Arena said, calling the participatory budget process an “exciting expansion of democracy.”
The neighborhood assemblies are scheduled to take place from:
• 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave.
• 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 29 at Hitch Elementary School, 5625 N. McVicker Ave.
• 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 30 at St. Constance Parish Hall, 5843 W. Strong St.
• 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 5 at Lydia Home Administrative Offices, 4839 W. Irving Park Road
• 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 7 Disney II Magnet High School/Thurgood Marshall Middle School, 3900 N. Lawndale Ave.
After the assemblies, committees made up of volunteers will evaluate the long wish list of potential projects for feasibility and cost. The committees will ultimately decide which projects will make it on to the ballot.
In the spring, the committees will host several project expos to present the projects members picked for the ballot and answer questions from residents of the far Northwest Side ward, which includes parts of Portage Park, Jefferson Park, Old Irving Park, Forest Glen and Gladstone Park.
About $300,000 will be held back to cover cost overruns and emergency projects. Only projects in the new boundaries of the 45th Ward will be eligible. Last year, the ballot included projects in both the old and new 45th Ward, said Arena's chief of staff, Owen Brugh.
In 2013, 650 voters decided $546,000 should be spent to resurface streets, repair curbs and sidewalks and replace streetlights. A plan to spend $120,000 to wash, paint and add pigeon netting to viaducts and underpasses throughout the ward was the top vote-getter.
Work began last week on the installation of a $183,000 artificial turf play surface at Beaubien Elementary School, 5025 N. Laramie Ave., which was among the winners in the 2012 vote. Other winners are waiting for final cost estimates from city transportation officials, Arena said.
Other projects picked by voters last year for funding include a $23,000 project to clean, paint and add lighting to the viaduct under the Union Pacific Railroad Tracks on Milwaukee Avenue north of the Jefferson Park Transit Center.
For more information, call the 45th Ward office at 773-286-4545 or email Brugh at email@example.com.