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45th Ward Residents to Decide How to Spend $1 Million on Local Projects

  Three expos will give residents a chance to learn more about the projects up for a vote.
45th Ward Participatory Budget Vote
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JEFFERSON PARK — Residents of the 45th Ward will get to choose from about a dozen projects seeking funding from Ald. John Arena's $1 million discretionary budget, officials said.

Among the choices will be $100,000 toward a new playground at Independence Park and $67,000 to help rehabilitate the cracked and pitted tennis courts at Wilson Park, said Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff.

"We're really trying to leverage this money, and make it goes as far as possible," Brugh said.

Arena will host three project expos April 22, April 23 and April 26 to give residents a chance to learn more about the items on the ballot — and give their proponents an opportunity to campaign for votes. 

This is the second year Arena will decide how to spend his $1.3 million discretionary budget, sometimes known as "menu money," through a participatory budget process. About $300,000 will be held back to cover cost overruns and emergency projects, Brugh said.

A new playground and other improvements at Independence Park, 3945 N. Springfield Ave., will cost a total of $700,000, with the rest of the money coming from the state and the Chicago Park District — along with $100,000 that the park's advisory council has promised to raise, Brugh said.

The park district will kick in $91,000 to cover the full cost of a new surface and nets for the Wilson Park tennis courts, Brugh said.

Arena's office held five community meetings in the fall to put together a list of the infrastructure projects that will appear on the ballot.

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

"We expect this to be very popular again this year, especially after the winter Chicago has had," Brugh said, adding that the 45th Ward has 800 residential blocks — many pitted with deep potholes.

Last year's top vote getter — $120,000 to wash, paint and add pigeon netting and spikes to viaducts and underpasses throughout the ward — will be on this year's ballot as well, with $150,000 earmarked for 10 viaducts under the Kennedy Expressway and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

Voters will also get to choose whether to plant trees throughout the ward at a cost of $514 per tree, Brugh said. Many trees have been felled by the Emerald Ash Borer.

"We have an extensive list of where we would like to plant these trees," Brugh said, adding that voters can choose to fund 150, 300 or 450 trees.

Other projects on the ballot include:

• $70,000 for bike lanes on Lawrence Avenue near Milwaukee Avenue.

• $10,000 for lights in the viaduct under the Union Pacific Railroad tracks along Avondale Avenue.

• $25,000 to replace the fences on the pedestrian bridge leading to the Gladstone Park Metra station.

• $20,000 for metal banners with the Jefferson Park chamber logo on 50 light poles near Lawrence and Milwaukee avenues.

• $35,700 for additional lights along Irving Park Road under the Kennedy Expressway in an effort to make it safer for pedestrians.

Residents of the 45th Ward — as determined by the 2015 Chicago City Council district map — who are older than 14 are eligible to vote, Brugh said. Voters should bring government identification or a piece of mail — such as an utility bill — to the polls, he added.

Election Day is May 10, and ballots may be cast at the 45th Ward Office, 4754 N. Milwaukee Ave. Early voting will be available from May 5-9, Brugh said.