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Flossmoor trustees vote on Streetscape grant, as pandemic restrictions evident at meeting

Flossmoor village board members Monday approved two resolutions related to the proposed Central Business District Streetscape Improvements in the downtown area. Board members followed social distancing protocol at their March 16 meeting.

 

Flossmoor village board members Monday approved two resolutions related to the proposed Central Business District Streetscape Improvements in the downtown area.

Flossmoor village board members followed social distancing protocol at their March 16 meeting. Instead of sitting at the board dais, Trustee James Mitros, in foreground, moved to a table in the audience area. (Tom Houlihan/H-F Chronicle)

In the first resolution, trustees adopted a Complete Streets Policy indicating that Flossmoor “views all transportation improvements as an opportunity to connect neighborhoods, calm traffic and improve safety, provide greater access and mobility for users of the public way, and recognizes bicycle, pedestrian and transit modes as integral elements of the transportation system.”

Public Works Director John Brunke said adopting the policy will help Flossmoor acquire additional points in a grant application to the Surface Transportation Program (STP) through South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. The STP is a reimbursement program administered by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning with funds from the federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. 

In the second resolution, trustees agreed to a funding formula with the STP for engineering and construction of the Streetscape program. According to the resolution, STP will reimburse Flossmoor for 80 percent of future engineering costs and bill the village for 20 percent of construction costs.

Both resolutions were unanimously approved by trustees. 

The Streetscape project has been under consideration for the last four years. Plans call for a number of improvements in the downtown area that will enhance safety and the aesthetics of the Central Business District.

Flossmoor has been working with Baxter & Woodman Consulting Engineers on the first phase of engineering for the project. After receiving a grant from Cook County, Flossmoor is responsible for paying $32,000, which is 20 percent of those engineering costs. Brunke said the first phase of engineering will be concluded by the end of 2020.

Brunke Monday presented preliminary figures of what costs might result from Flossmoor receiving the proposed grant for the downtown project. Two additional engineering phases will cost, respectively, $150,000 and $191,000. Estimated construction costs are currently set at $1.927 million. Flossmoor’s 20 percent match of engineering and construction costs would come to $385,400.

Under the STP program, Brunke said, Flossmoor would not receive funding any earlier than 2021. If the grant is approved, that means construction of the Streetscape work would take place in 2022 and 2023, he said.

The Streetscape plan calls for safety improvements included within the project such as re-configured intersection geometry, improved vehicle and pedestrian sight lights, improved crosswalk configuration and crossing safety treatments, evaluation of existing on-street parking locations and improved roadway and pedestrian lighting. 

The village has also identified the need to modernize and accentuate the downtown area by adding parkway and crosswalk pavers, sidewalk replacement to remove tripping and other safety hazards, ADA access improvements, additional trees with tree grates, benches, bike racks, wayfinding and safety signage and other decorative landscaping elements. 

Monday’s meeting reflected the reality of doing municipal business in the age of COVID-19.

Four large containers of hand sanitizer were posted outside the board chamber. Inside the chamber, seating had been rearranged to meet social distancing protocol – no trustees or other village officials were less than six feet from another. Mayor Paul Braun distributed gloves to village officials. Usually, several municipal staff members are on hand but only two were present in the audience.

Braun opened the meeting by telling the sparse audience – four residents, including one reporter – that Flossmoor has taken several steps in response to the coronavirus emergency. The village is looking for ways to reduce the number of employees at village hall and some are now working from home on a rotating basis.

Flossmoor is extending the April 15 deadline for vehicle stickers for a month, until May 15, and no longer selling them in person at village hall. All sticker transactions will be taking place by mail until the new deadline, Braun said.

Earlier on Monday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that the state’s Open Meetings Act is being suspended for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. Braun said that action will make it easier for the village board to meet even when some members choose not come to the board chambers. One trustee, Joni Bradley-Scott, participated in Monday’s meeting by phone.

Braun assured the audience the suspension of the Open Meetings Act – which was originally passed to prevent government abuse by elected officials – does not mean that Flossmoor will start conducting business in secret. He said the village will do its best to keep residents informed – and to stay safe – during the coronavirus crisis.

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