Sixth Street work postponed until 2025

Residents have until July 1 to decide how they want to proceed to save historic brick street

Work on Sixth Street planned for this summer will be postponed until 2025 so residents have more time to determine their options to save their brick street.

"We budgeted $4.5 million for the work on Sixth Street," Village President Tom Cauley said at Tuesday night's Hinsdale Village Board meeting. "If we do an all-brick Sixth Street, that would be a $6.5-million project for four blocks. That is a lot of money for the village."

Cauley spoke in response to a plea from Sixth Street resident Jennifer Reenan, who wants to see the brick street preserved.

"While we are hopeful that the bids end up being lower than expected, we also hope, over the next few months, to make a stronger case to you, our elected trustees, as to why brick streets are financially manageable, ecologically responsible and important to the entire community of Hinsdale," Reenan said.

Cauley re-iterated that the village is willing to spend $800,000 for brick crosswalks but is not willing foot the entire bill.

"If you think this is a community benefit, there is one way to test that - have a referendum," Cauley said. "I have my views as to how that would turn out."

A referendum also would need to be held to form a special service area that would tax Sixth Street residents an additional amount each year for a set number of years to generate the $2 million, Cauley said. Or a larger SSA for all of the Robbins Park Historic District, which includes First Street (also brick), could be approved. The First Street work would add about $1 million to the total.

"Those are the three alternatives," Cauley said. "You have until July 1 to decide which of those three alternatives you want.

"You can come every meeting from now to July 1 and ask me, or the board, to pay for the entire $2.8 million to do four blocks in all brick and the answer from me is always going to be the same: No," he told Reenan. "We can continue to have this conversation but you're not going to change my mind."

Cauley said the village will work with contractors to get more accurate estimates of how much the work will cost. He said village staff also will look to secure any grant money that might be available for such a project.

"I'm not holding out a lot of hope, but we'll try that," Cauley said.

Sixth Street resident and former Trustee Bill Haarlow thanked village officials for meeting with him and his neighbors Monday night.

"We felt like we made some good progress and are finally having the sort of collaborative conversation we wanted to have all along," he said.

He asked Cauley what would happen if an SSA to generate $2 million was approved and then actual bids came in higher. Cauley said the amount would be capped for residents, and unless the amount was insurmountable, it would be up to the village to pick up the difference.

Cauley also told Haarlow he believes residents should decide who will be included in the SSA if they are going to put one on the November ballot.

"The upside of including more people is you spread it around more. The downside is people who are more on the periphery are more likely to vote no and you have to have 51 percent to do this," Cauley said. "Tactically it's in your best interest to make those decisions."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean