Voting Meeting: Openlands, Fluoride Fights Continue Before Board
General omnibus bill passes several regular matters; Village President discusses lessons from MMC meeting on emerald ash borer.
Scarcely a Western Springs Board of Trustees meeting has passed in the past few months without citizens stepping forward to weigh in on one of two topics—the Openlands proposal for Timber Trails Unit II and the addition of fluoride to Village water—and Monday night’s voting meeting was no different.
No less than seven residents stepped forward, old faces and new, to make their appeals, the topic flipping with each speaker—fluoride, Openlands, fluoride, Openlands, etc.—in a half-hour expansion of Citizen Comments that engulfed nearly two-thirds of the meeting.
Openlands proposal supporters speak
Speakers entreating the Board to push for the Openlands proposal, which would preserve the western half of the 2004 Timber Trails addition as parkland, included a former Park Board member, an Openlands board member and a La Grange Highlands resident.
Jim Larsen, a 21-year Village resident, recalled his tenure on the Park Board in the mid-90s when the Village made the 4200 block of Ellington Avenue into a cul-de-sac to make Field Park safer (which he cited as an example of outside-the-box thinking) and when the Park Board purchased the land for Clark Park and southern Springdale Park.
“Both [park] purchases were made realizing that they would create a short-term economic negative impact, but they were done in order to preserve the long-term preservation of green space in the Village,” Larsen said. “I urge each of you to work openly and creatively to preserve the natural and environmental heritage that is available in Timber Trails II.”
Resident of 35 years and Openlands board member Nancy Sutherland cited Timber Trails’ old-growth trees, unique topography and historical Native American significance in her appeal. She also extended an invitation to board members to join her on a tour of the Fort Sheridan Openlands Lakeshore Preserve on the North Shore.
“I urge you as trustees and village officials to listen to the voices of Western Springs residents, to take notice of Openlands’ long track record of working with government entities to preserve green space,” Sutherland pressed. “This is a legacy decision that will benefit generations to come and will only enhance the wonderful place that is Western Springs.”
The third plea came from La Grange Highlands resident Louanne Grabowski, who compared the natural history of Timber Trails to the community history of Western Springs as seen through the historical Water Tower, reiterating a case she made at the original purchase of the land in 2004
“Imagine, if you will, your reaction to a developer approaching Western Springs and offering to buy the water tower and its land in order to demolish it and build condominiums on the land,” Grabowski said. “I ask the Board members not merely to be passive vessels for the input of its advisors. I ask you to look at Timber Trails and think of the Water Tower.”
“I hope we do have it in our power to help preserve the land at Timber Trails,” added resident Sara Merrifield briefly. “I think it would be a shame if we don’t—we have this unique opportunity.”
Anti-fluoride residents slighted
Members of the organization Western Springs Residents Concerned About Fluoride once again pressed the Board, suggesting that their views and those of a large contingent of Western Springs residents were being marginalized.
Group head spokeswoman Marcy Rossi suggested that the Board two weeks ago had implied that the WSRCAF “hadn’t provided scientific information,” information which she said she had sent the Board in several e-mails and paper copies of which she now distributed to the entire Board.
Fellow concerned resident Annie Tandy said that the group was particularly perturbed by the decision to allow Dr. James Maragos, a dentist, former Trustee and pro-fluoridation advocate (who spoke before the Board on the subject two weeks ago,) to publish an article on the Tower Topics front page that touts the benefits of fluoride consumption, including the consumption by young children.
“I don’t know who chooses that to be in the Tower Topics, but the other side didn’t get chosen,” Tandy said. “It didn’t see fair to the people of the Village that only one side was on the front page of the Tower Topics.”
In response to Board suggestions that the group meet with Maragos in person to discuss their views, Rossi said that “it’s not really our intention to debate with dentists about whether there are topical benefits to fluoride.”
Tandy, along with compatriot Janet Retzer, also asked the Board if the decision on fluoridation could be placed as a vote before the residents of Western Springs, a notion President Bill Rodeghier said was extremely unlikely.
“We’re elected to make decisions,” Rodeghier said of the Board. “We don’t have referendums on everything that’s controversial… It seems to me that the reason why we elect trustees is to make decisions on behalf of all the residents.”
“What I’m ingesting, I think that’s personal,” Retzer replied. “And I think a lot of people feel that way, and I really believe that people want to know and to have a choice, just like I have a choice about other things.”
Rodeghier and Public Works and Water Committee head Trustee Suzanne Glowiak told the WSRCAF members that while they intended to have an open process and a public hearing, it would not take place before autumn and would likely happen at the committee level. The expectation is that the committee will make a recommendation on the matter sometime late in 2012 at the earliest.
EAB: bad news and good news
President Rodeghier brought back a report from a Metropolitan Mayors Caucus conference about emerald ash borer, the parasitic ash-tree-killing bug which has been confirmed in the Village of Western Springs, saying it was a good-news-bad-news situation.
“The bad news is, it is a disastrous disease for trees,” Rodeghier said, relaying stories of denuded subdivisions in Fort Wayne, Indiana and a massive clear-cutting in Wilmette were ash trees were turned into baseball bats. “The good news is it can be managed, although all we’re doing is buying time by managing this. The key is having a plan.”
Director of Municipal Services Matt Supert said that there is indeed a plan, one which has been in development even before EAB was confirmed in the Village of Western Springs—and it does not involve clear-cutting. More likely, it will involve a combination of clearing and short-term treatment to phase out the Village’s ash trees over a decade.
Supert said that the Municipal Services Department has plans to disseminate to a brochure to residents sometime in April explaining the exact course of action planned.
Omnibus bill passes
The following measures were passed on the routine omnibus bill, having been discussed at the March regular meeting:
- A measure mandating that future invisible fences in the Village for constraining pets be laid no closer than six feet to a public sidewalk, be clearly marked and be subject to a $25 permit fee.
- A 26-rule code of conduct for public buildings and public land in the Village.
- Awarding of a contract for a 2012 International 4x6 dump truck to Prairie Archway International Trucks of Springfield for about $117,800.
- Disposal authorization for three Village vehicles: two 2004 Ford Expeditions and a 1999 GMC Hook Lift Diesel Truck.
- Liquor licenses for the Theatre of Western Springs’ American Diabetes Association and Laugh for Literacy fundraisers.
A raffle license for La Grange Park’s Congregation of St. Joseph’s, who are holding the Laugh for Literacy fundraiser at TWS.