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45th Ward Projects Vying for Share of $1 Million to be Highlighted at Expos

 Ald. John Arena (45th) has put his discretionary budget up to a vote.
Participatory Budget Meetings Set
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JEFFERSON PARK — Three community meetings next week will detail the nearly 20 projects that 45th Ward residents can fund with Ald. John Arena's $1 million discretionary budget.

Among the choices will be $100,000 for 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.

The expos to detail the projects up for a vote — and give supporters a chance to campaign for them — are scheduled for:

• 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday at Disney II Magnet School, 3815 N. Kedvale Ave.

• 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday at St. Tarcissus School, 6040 W. Ardmore Ave.

• 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. April 26, Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings Ave.

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 late addition to the ballot will allow ward residents older than 14 to spend $8,700 to buy three in-street bike racks for the Six Corners Shopping District, where business owners are working to make the area more pedestrian-friendly in an effort to bring new life to the shopping district that has been languishing for several decades.

Other projects on the ballot include:

• $150,000 to wash, paint and add pigeon netting and spikes to viaducts and underpasses.

• $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.

• $17,000 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.

Voters will also determine what percentage of the funds should be used for street resurfacing and whether Arena should buy 150, 300 or 450 trees for about $500 each. Nearly 400 trees in the ward have or will be removed because of the emerald ash borer, city officials said this week.

Votes can be cast from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. May 10 at the Wilson Park Field House, 4630 N. Milwaukee Ave., with early voting in the 45th Ward office, 4754 N. Milwaukee Ave., between 8 a.m.-6 p.m. from May 5-9.