Northfield Township trustees question proposal for new township garage
Highway Commissioner Peter Amarantos has initiated plans to demolish and rebuild a new maintenance garage for Northfield Township Road District. | TODD SHIELDS~SUN-TIMES MEDIA
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:10AM
NORTHFIELD TOWNSHIP — The highway commissioner for Northfield Township Road District has submitted plans amid protest for expanding its maintenance facility.
Commissioner Peter Amarantos said the public works garage at 1928 Lehigh Avenue in Glenview was too small for operating a public recycling program.
He wants to demolish the building and replace it with a new garage and add a 35-foot tall weather observation tower.
He also said the turning route for delivering road salt to the facility was inefficient.
Amarantos appeared Jan. 29 before Glenview plan commissioners who approved the $450,000-$475,000 project, and sent it the Village Board for a Tuesday public hearing and first consideration.
The proposal could go before the Appearance Commission on March 6, but a meeting has not been confirmed.
However, Township Trustee Carol Blustein said the project has no financial oversight because trustees by law cannot disapprove line items on Amarantos’ spending budget.
She also said he did not discuss the new garage at recent Northfield Township meetings.
“There’s been no public review of cost, bidding or financing of this public building,” she said.
Amarantos also said a garden roof above the building was planned with plants, native grasses and a walking path.
The rain runoff could be used for watering the plants and township vehicles, he said, adding the property would be rezoned as public use land instead of industrial.
“Whenever you have a public building, it should have LEED lighting and conservation programs. We could have school students visit it for education purposes,” he said.
“The roof garden will help cool the new building, too.”
Amarantos was unsure of the current building’s age, but said it was more than 50 years.
The facility will add 400 square-feet to the building’s footprint, he said, and his employees will build the new roof.
In January, township trustees voted to publish a question on April 9 election ballots, asking voters to give them more control over Amarantos’ Highway Department.
The advisory referendum question is “Shall the Northfield Township Board seek to abolish the Township Road District with all the rights, powers, duties, assets, property, liabilities, obligations, and responsibilities being assumed by the Township of Northfield?”
Part of the trustees’ complaints against Amarantos was that he has not spent $425,000 of budgeted funds since 2009 for building additions to the district garage and his office.
However, Amarantos said the unspent money was for unpredictable expenditures related to weather, road salt, gasoline for road trucks and flooding.
“I have to make sure we have enough money in case something happens. My budget is always balanced and there is no debt,” he said.
He reiterated those reasons last week, and said the funds were held more so for flood control measures on Central Avenue in Glenview.
In response, Blustein said his decision to expend funds for a new facility was because of the upcoming April 9 election.
“The $425,000 was in the budget but not spent for four years. This was brought up at township meetings in January and February. (Amarantos) had no comment,” she said.
She also noted no bills for proposed architect’s fees, for example, have been submitted to township trustees for review, although they cannot deny them for future payment.
“The timing here is very questionable with $425,000 on the books for four years. Why now? Less than two months from the election?” Blustein said.
Amarantos said the election was a not a motive for starting the project.
“I don’t do anything just for elections. Why would I do that?” he said.