PORTAGE PARK — Playground equipment, trees in parks and a mural designed by high school students are among the projects set for the first-ever Participatory Budgeting vote in the 36th Ward.
Residents can learn more about the 10 projects on the ballot at an expo set to take place from 5 to 7 p.m. April 25 at the 36th Ward office, 6934 W. Diversey Ave., and cast their ballot.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), elected a year ago, said he put his $1 million discretionary budget up to a vote to get residents involved in the civic life of the ward, which was significantly reshaped in 2015 by a new map approved by the City Council.
"Participatory budgeting is a great way for residents to spend their own tax dollars," Villegas said.
All residents of the 36th Ward older than 14 are eligible to vote. The ward includes Portage Park, Belmont Cragin, Dunning, Montclare and Galewood.
More than 40 residents examined each project proposed for the ballot, and a nine-member executive committee decided which ones made the ballot, said Justin Heath, director of policy for Villegas.
"My vote is a secret, but I can tell you that I am very excited by every one of these projects," Villegas said "The volunteers did a great job."
In addition to choosing three projects, voters will decide what percentage of the budget should be used to resurface streets, Heath said.
The projects up for a vote are:
• $350,000 to replace the "uneven" and "unsafe" surface of the playground at Reinberg Elementary School, 3425 N. Major Ave.
• $225,000 for sidewalks along the west side of the 2700 block Newcastle Avenue and both sides of the 2300 block of north Normandy Avenue.
• $200,000 for a turf field to replace the dirt play area at Locke Elementary School.
• $150,000 for a water spray feature at Bell Park, 3020 N. Oak Park Ave. that can be turned on and off to save money and water.
• $90,000 for a crosswalk at Belmont and Natchez avenues, which is near a school and frequently used bus stop.
• $45,000 for a mural "celebrating the beautiful culture and vibrant community of the 36th Ward" designed by students at North-Grand High School, 4338 W. Wabansia Ave.
• $35,000 to repair the basketball courts at Blackhawk Park, 2318 N. Lavergne Ave., and install removable basketball rims.
• $30,000 to build a fence at Hermosa Park, 2240 N. Kilbourn Ave., to ensure children can play safely.
• $22,000 for the community garden at Prosser Career Academy, 2148 N. Long Ave. The garden needs a path for wheelchair access, additional lights and new garden beds.
• $10,000 to plant trees at Bell Park, Rutherford-Sayre Park, 6871 W. Belden Ave., Blackhawk Park and Hermosa Park, where hundreds of trees have been killed by pests and disease in recent years.
Ballots can be cast at the 36th Ward office during regular office hours from April 25 to May 7.
In addition, voting will take place from:
• 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 29 at Locke Elementary School
• 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. May 5 at North Grand High School
• 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 30 at Iglesia Evangelica Emmanuel Church, 5018 W. Armitage Ave.
• 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 7 at Bell Park.
The results will be announced May 9 at the ward office, Heath said.
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