Martin Avenue project contract awarded just before TIF expires

It came down to the wire, but the Martin Avenue open space and streetscape project contract crossed the finish line just before the expiration of its funding source. 

At a special meeting Tuesday, Dec. 30, Homewood trustees approved a bid waiver and awarded a $1.2 million contract for developing the Martin Avenue project to F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielson & Associates.

Anthony Izzi

The purpose of the project is to enhance downtown Homewood as a community gathering place. The additional people it could draw would benefit local businesses, according to village documents on the project. 

Village Attorney Chris Cummings explained the need for the bid waiver was because the TIF was set to expire and because the project had been delayed by circumstances beyond the village's control. The funds for the Martin Avenue project will come from the Central Business District Tax Increment Financing District.

Resident John Blasgen, who has followed the Martin Avenue project since it was announced, was critical of the timing and the cost, which is about 50 percent more than initial estimates. The final design includes a number of features not in the original plan.

"I don't think the board has done its due diligence," he said. "It's being rushed through."

Cummings noted the project was originally planned to be done this year, but a problem with survey work contributed to the delay.

"What should have taken 30 days took five months," he said. "There was no time to solicit bids given the funding source."

In spite of the bid waiver, he said Lakota Group and village officials did a thorough job seeking and vetting contractors for the job.  The Lakota Group contacted nine companies with experience doing similar projects, according to a memo from Village Manager Jim Marino to the board.
Five of the companies attended a submittal meeting Dec. 17. Proposals were due Dec. 22. Three proposals were received, and interviews with company representatives were done that day. 

Marino listed several reasons to F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielson & Associate was chosen. The company is more experienced managing streetscape projects, appears to be flexible and accommodating and village officials have been pleased with work done by the company for the village, he said.

Anthony Izzi, general manager of FHPSNN, told the board the company has extensive experience with streetscape-type projects.

He said construction would get under way during the first quarter of 2015 and should be completed, weather permitting, during the third quarter.

Trustees Barbara Dawkins and Lisa Purcell thanked staff for their work getting the contractor selected in such a short time.

"It really would have been great if we could have gotten it done in the timeline, but due to the difficulties that were not in our control it's been pushed back," she said. "I also appreciate the hard work from staff. They worked very diligently to get this done."

Board members approved the measure unanimously.

Next on the agenda Tuesday was the termination of the Central Business District Tax Increment Financing District. 

The boundaries of the Central
Business District TIF, set to 
expire Dec. 31.
courtesy of the Village of 

The board approved an ordinance terminating the TIF district at one minute to midnight Wednesday, Dec. 31. 

The TIF district was created in 1978 and extended in 2001, Marino said. 

"We've done a lot of work on this TIF, spent a lot of money, and I think we've done a lot of good things, have seen a lot of improvements," Marino said.

Blasgen, though still critical of the Martin Avenue project, congratulated the board on support for local businesses provided by the TIF.

Trustee Anne Colton said the retirement of the TIF was cause for celebration. She noted the dramatic increase in equalized assessed value of property in the district. The EAV in the district was $875,000 when it was capped in 1978, she said. Village President Richard Hofeld noted that in the most recent year figures are available, the CDB EAV was more than $8 million.

"I'm really proud to be part of this," she said. "And I'm happy to see all that money going back to the taxing bodies."

Hofeld noted that he was a trustee when the TIF was first created, and he said the result was something for the village to be proud of.

"This is really a momentous occasion," he said. "All of the affected taxing bodies ... have shared in the success of these TIFs."

Some school officials disagree with that view. At the board's Dec. 23 meeting, several representatives of Homewood School District 153 objected to the village's plan to purchase property with CDB TIF money. That money would have been returned to taxing agencies in the district if it had not been spent.

The goal of TIF districts is to stimulate economic development, raising the EAV while enhancing the TIF area, Hofeld said. In addition to the increased EAV in the downtown district, he noted the increase in Washington Park TIF EAV went from $3.1 million to $61.8 million before it expired several years ago. 

Local taxing agencies, including park district, library and school districts, also received surplus distributions from TIFs. He said during the life of the TIFs, $51 millions in surpluses were distributed to local taxing bodies.  

Now that the CDB TIF is ending, the revenue for cap on EAV will be removed and taxing agencies in the district will benefit from the higher assessments.

Hofeld commended Marino and Village Finance Director Dennis Bubenik for their management of the TIFs, and he thanked current and past trustees for supporting the TIFs.

"Homewood is a better place because of your vision," he said.

Related story:
Final plan for Martin Avenue streetscape wins praise, but question arises about funding (The Chronicle, Dec. 10, 2014)

Contact Eric Crump at [email protected]

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