Oakton Street might be under new ownership soon. Not any particular store or restaurant on the artery, literally, Oakton Street.
At Monday night’s Skokie village board meeting, trustees authorized staff request to ask Cook County to formally hand over control of Oakton from Long Avenue on the village’s western border of the village to Skokie Boulevard, (a stretch of 0.78 miles) and place it under the control of Skokie.
“It gives the village control over the street and I think we can maintain it better than the county,” Mayor George Van Dusen said.
A previous agreement enacted in 1995 allowed the village to perform certain functions on its own including snow plowing. If the proposed jurisdictional transfer goes forward, this will give the village complete control over the street which has been a point of contention between the personnel of the county highway department and the village.
“The personnel have never been really happy with the village taking over the snow plowing,” Van Dusen said of the Cook County Highway Department. “This makes it very clear to everybody that we have the responsibility.”
The mayor conceded the village could cost local taxpayers some extra money, but for now that shouldn’t be a problem. But the village will receive a larger share of the motor fuel tax to help pay for maintenance on Oakton if the county board agrees to the request.
According to Skokie’s representative on the county board, this act should not be a problem for the county, and he expects his fellow commissioners to relinquish control over that strip of Oakton possibly as soon as March and the transfer could be complete by June.
“They will find that whenever there is a pothole, the village will be much faster to respond,” said Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin. “We still control the road east of Skokie Boulevard.”
This is a similar path the county has taken with other major thoroughfares such as Lake Avenue in Wilmette.
“Whenever we have done a total rebuild of the road we turn it over as close to pristine as we can get,” Suffredin said.
Oakton was renovated in 1995 just before the last agreement.
Van Dusen said he hopes one day the county will also turn over the stretches of Crawford Avenue and Old Orchard Road to the village.
One short term aspect of the agreement is the village will no longer have to go through the county to put on special events on Oakton or cut through county red tape for development issues.
This is all part of the plan for the multimillion dollar Oakton Street redevelopment that will have to be completed by the end of 2013 as the village plans to spend TIF dollars that expire at the end of next year.
“It makes sense for the village. In the downtown there is a lot of development we want to do,” said Erik Cook, a senior engineer with the village. “The train station, the trail that is going in and whatever developments we do on Oakton. It makes it easier for those things to go forward.”
Trustee Randy Roberts added he would like to see staff look into changes for the speed limit on Oakton once the transfer is in place.
Board meeting note -
Village trustees extended for another three years a local three cents per gallon local fuel tax that was originally enacted in 2009. Officials say the tax has generated $1 million a year in its first two years and five miles of local streets have been resurfaced with the money generated. The tax was set to expire this year, requiring the board to take action.