Thursday, June 23, 2011

Time to reimburse the residents, without delay....

Following is a letter sent to Mayor Nancy Rotering, with copies to the entire City Council, requesting that she take action now to reimburse the 45+ residents who paid $237,046 (in the aggregate) for unnecessary "repairs" on their private property based on the City's threat of lien and other financial penalties.  This blog will keep readers updated with responses.

June 22, 2011

Dear Mayor Rotering:

It was reported last week that the City of Highland Park has discovered it has $1.73 million more in its reserves than had been reported at year end 2010. This provides the City with a final audited reserve of $13,153,861 - a more than ample reserve of 45.6% of its projected expenditures for the current fiscal year. Now is the time to reimburse the 45 residents who paid, in the aggregate, more than $237,000 - and there can be no excuse for delay.

More than three years ago the Rade family vigorously objected to the City of Highland Park about the Master Plan for Storm and Sanitary Sewers (a program that has also been known as the Neighborhood Sewer Program and is referred to in this letter as the "Sewer Program.") This formal complaint to Mayor Belsky, the entire City Council, and City Manager fell, and continues to fall, on largely deaf ears. My brother David's family wrote a check, under coercion and threat of lien, to the City for $4,591.53. It was so marked. However, starting in November 2008, when the Ravinia Neighborhood Association (RNA) stood up to David Limardi, Mayor Belsky and the whole of City Council in public forums, their voices were heard and more effective. We thank our neighbors in Ravinia for taking an active stand against this patently inequitable, ill-conceived, and financially destructive program.

No one in City Council should understand better than you how poorly conceived this program is.  It was this issue that began to propel your own political career in Highland Park. You became a vocal opponent of the program early on, attending the public forums and speaking out. Your opposition to this program was an essential part of your platform in your successful races for your seat as a Councilman and later as Mayor. Yet, after you were elected to City Council in 2009, and now as mayor in 2011 , it seems this issue remains under the sewer covers, without an advocate. It is time for you to take action and resolve, once and for all, the Sewer Program that, according to former Mayor Belsky, has merely been on "hiatus" waiting for a better economy (and, can there ever be an economy in which individual residents can afford to pay $5,000-$20,000+ for unnecessary "repairs"?).

More importantly, it is time to reimburse the 45 residents, including some former residents who were scalped before they sold their homes, who were coerced into paying, in the aggregate, more than $237,000 for unnecessary, questionable "repairs" to lateral sanitary lines on their private property.

As you are familiar with the issue, I will not detail all the facts and issues here, other than to remind you that the Down the Drain in HP blog covers the whole saga. In addition to the serious fmancial harm done to those who have paid up to $12,000+ for sewer lining really intended to benefit City infrastructure problems, there is the continuing issue that homeowners in Highland Park should be disclosing this very real potential financial liability whenever they attempt to sell their property which should seriously further depress the City's real estate market. Any homeowner who has ever had their sewer rodded will need to inform a potential buyer of the City's current Sewer Program and that the real estate may soon incur a substantial expense.

Please let me know as soon as possible what action you will take to ensure that the 45 residents are immediately reimbursed for their payments to the City of Highland Park in 2008. I assume that most of the residents would accept repayment in full now, without seeking appropriate interest, even though the City as part of its initial coercive plan had threatened to charge homeowners interest for failure to pay. Additionally, what is your schedule for removing the Sewer Program from its "hiatus" and terminating it, as well as designing an appropriate program to address flooding issues?

We're looking to you, as Highland Park's new mayor, to finally do the right thing. While you told everyone at the RNA meeting at the Ravinia Train station during your race for the office that you will only be one voice among many councilmen, we look to you for some true leadership.

Respectfully yours,

Debra S. Rade

Copies to: City Councilmen, David Limardi (City Manager), Donald Miller (President, Ravinia Neighborhood Association)

(It should be noted that the sum of$12,000 is referenced based on the HP list for 2008 that HP provided to me in response to a FOIA request. I have heard from others, not on the list, that they have been required to pay sums of up to $20,000.)

1 comment:

Susan Kozloff said...

Thank you Debra for being the voice of we "50"! Its absurd how we have been {mis}treated in this debacle. Clearly the city will keep this program on "hiatus" forever so they that it will never have to deal with it again. In the meantime we have spent thousand on unnecessary repairs. I challenge the morals and ethics of city government to do what's rightous: return the money to the people!