Residents take issue with HCS move

The planned relocation of the HCS Family Services food pantry from Memorial Hall to the former Hinsdale Humane Society shelter has prompted safety concerns from residents in the area.

At Tuesday night’s village board meeting, Hinsdale trustees held a first read on an ordinance approving HCS move to the one-story, 5,550-square-foot building at 22 N. Elm St. The village and HCS signed a 10-year lease last October for HCS’ rent-free use of the site as a solution to the agency’s need for more space to accommodate food pantry operations. HCS has said it expects to spend $420,000 upgrading the facility.

The food pantry would be open from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Mondays and 1 to 2 p.m. Fridays, Trustee Luke Stifflear stated in his introduction of the agenda item, one fewer day than the pantry currently operates. He also detailed the village’s intention to shift parking on that stretch of Elm from the east side of the street to the west side, creating seven parallel spaces just north of the building and installing a sidewalk segment along the spaces.

HCS consultant Stephen Corcoran, director of traffic engineering for Eriksson Engineering Associates, told trustees the plan is to have food pantry guests, which can number up to 90, wait in the Hinsdale Seventh-day Adventist Church parking lot at 201 N. Oak St. and to be dispatched in groups of four. They would then drive west on Walnut to Elm, pull in one of the new parallel spaces and have the food loaded in their trunk.

“They’re going to be in the parallel parking spots so they’re not blocking the two lanes of traffic.” Corcoran said. “Volunteers with walkie-talkies or cellphones ... will then radio back to the church for four (more) to come.”

During the public comment portion, Scott Salenko of 240 E. Walnut St. said he fears the addition of food pantry traffic will make the already hazardous Walnut and Elm crossing worse.

“My 8-year-old, in a week, is going to start walking to The Lane School every day and I’m going to be scared,” Salenko said. “Coming up the hill from that church, that’s a scary proposition for me.”

He also questioned why Monday’s pantry hours were right at the time of school dismissal.

“Let’s not do it when kids are getting out of school,” he said.

Village President Tom Cauley was sympathetic to that idea.

“I’m with moving the hours, as long as it works for the food pantry, to accommodate kids walking home from school. The seems like a reasonable request,” Cauley said.

Resident Rich Paul of 244 E. Walnut St. said he and his neighbors hadn’t been sufficiently involved in the process, although several meetings with residents were held this spring. Paul suggested guests use the existing parking spaces in front of the building.

“We’re wondering why you need those extra spaces on Elm Street when there are four empty spots that they could pull right in,” he said.

Officials said those spaces would be reserved for volunteers. In response to requests to make the Walnut/Elm crossing a four-way stop instead of two-way, Police Chief Brian King said it did not meet four-way stop standards but that it would be further explored.

Stifflear said he still supports the relocation.

“I think that staff here and also HCS has gone to great lengths — probably greater lengths than I would have gone to — to appease some of the neighbors’ concerns,” Stifflear said.

The board is expected to take action on the matter at its Tuesday, Sept. 5, meeting.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean