Park Ridge mayor addresses fire station update, salt dome, flashy signs at State of City speech

Park Ridge Mayor Marty Maloney touted green alleys, safety improvements to City Hall and the potential addition of a mental health officer when he delivered his annual State of the City address to the Park Ridge Chamber of Commerce Feb. 1.

Green Alleys

Maloney said the city designed two green alleys last year and will build two more this year. There are six more alleys that have been selected by a lottery process to be converted into green alleys.

In Park Ridge, a green alley differs from a regular alley in that its surface allows rain water to drip through its permeable brick paver surface to the groundwater and get stored in a granular base, a layer of several different gradations of stone, about three feet deep, to keep from taxing the local sewer system during rain, according to Public Works Director Sarah Mitchell.

“We have about 50-ish unpaved alleys still that remain here in town,” said Maloney. Currently, those alleys are mostly filled with gravel.

The city splits the cost of the construction of a green alley with residents under what is called a Special Service Area. Mitchell told Pioneer Press that residents, on average, spend $10,000 for a green alley behind their homes.

Flashy signs

Maloney said he and the City Council were aware of residents’ complaints about some signs and bright lights at new businesses on Northwest Highway near Meacham Avenue. He said city officials are looking at what they can do to enforce the signage code.

“Once we start going out and enforcing those (signage code rules), everybody’s got to follow the rules. And that’s that’s kind of where we’re headed,” said Maloney.

Police and Fire pension

Maloney said in the budget process for the upcoming year, city officials decided to increase funding to the Police and Fire pensions up to $150,000 each.

Illinois state law requires that all municipalities fund at least 90% of police and fire pensions by 2040.

“It really is above our recommended funding level. What it allows us to do is reach the funding levels that we’ve committed to our pension funds faster,” said Maloney. “Investments like that now are going to pay increased dividends down the line.”

Fire Station renovations

Fire Station 35, near the intersection of Devon and Cumberland Avenues, had its first round of bids for renovations approved by the city council in January.

“The bulk of that work starts this year,” said Maloney. “It’s a long overdue project, it’s a commitment that the City Council has made to the men and women that are working for the city.

Sidewalk replacement

Maloney said prior to 2024, Park Ridge residents had to pay a percentage to the city for repairs to the sidewalk on their property. “This year, through the budget process, the City Council decided to remove that. So we continue to take steps to try and keep as much money in the pockets of our residents,” he said.

Mental health resources

Currently, Park Ridge employs one social worker in the police department, according to Maloney. He said that in the prior year, there was an increase in the need for those services for city employees and that the current social worker has been working in other departments to accommodate its employees’ mental health needs.

Maloney said as the council goes through the budget process, it’s looking for opportunities to hire another mental health specialist. When asked if they would work in the police department or be able to treat non-city employees, Maloney said the city is still deciding on it in the budget process.

Relocating the salt dome

In 2022, Park Ridge voters approved $33.4 million in renovations to the Park Ridge Park District, which is a separate government entity from the City of Park Ridge, for various improvements to the Oakton Ice Arena. The renovations would expand the ice arena with a driving range, indoor turf and a concession stand that will be able to serve alcohol. The city currently has its salt dome located near the ice arena on Park District property, so it will have to relocate it before the park district expansion work can begin.

The city is in the process of building its salt dome on city property at 290 Busse Highway.

Migrant Crisis

Maloney said the city has not had any migrants sent on buses from Texas arrive, as have some other suburbs in the Chicago area. Some suburbs have passed ordinances that would ban unscheduled drop-offs, but Maloney said in talks with the city’s staff and legal team, “It wasn’t deemed necessary.”

“It could be a tool in the tool bag if we choose to do that. But we haven’t done that,” said Maloney. The city’s current plan would be to try to redirect the bus to Chicago or coordinate with Metra police if migrants have been dropped off at a Metra station and then send them to Chicago on the next available inbound train.