While just across 87th Street, Burbank’s Mayor Harry Klein and Aldermen were pushing the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the State of Illinois to make needed upgrades to the Melvina Ditch Reservoir, which affected flooding in both Oak Lawn and Burbank, Trustees in Oak Lawn chose to blame “past administrations” going back as far as 25 years to Mayor Ernie Kolb’s longtime administration.
Burbank officials were joined by Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Officials and Governor Pat Quinn recently at the Melvina Ditch Reservoir to announce that $10 Million dollars will be spent to improve the Melvina Ditch Reservoir. Homes near the ditch in Burbank may be purchased as part of the improvements.
When the Melvina Ditch Reservoir wasn’t able to handle recent rain waters, Burbank officials demanded action from the MWRD. The overflow may have also caused some nearby Oak Lawn homes to flood.
Some Oak Lawn officials took a different tack during the September 9th board meeting. Trustee Tim Desmond (Dist. 1) claimed that a different home he owned 25 years ago would flood during rains and now his current house is also suffering from the same flooding.
Desmond laid the blame on the past administrations. During the last twenty five years, Oak Lawn has had two elected Mayors, Dave Heilmann and Ernie Kolb.
Desmond was not willing to take any blame although his fellow Trustees Robert Streit (Dist. 3) and Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) talked about recent plans that were never pursued although approved during Dave Heilmann’s eight year tenure as Mayor.
Desmond did not let up in placing blame on Kolb and Heilmann’s respective administrations. “Previous administrations have lost a great opportunity to do something about this issue. If they were proactive back then so many people wouldn’t have lost everything,” said Desmond.
Desmond said that because of the failures of Kolb and Heilmann, “It is up to this administration like so many other issues to tackle it on head on.”
Trustee Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) said that they will take responsibility for the flooding but then claimed that nothing had been done with flooding between 1991 and 2005. Former Mayor Ernie Kolb served during those years until his death in 2003 and maintained a majority board for virtually the entire tenure.
Trustee Streit said it was wrong to blame previous administrations since the current board has been in place for a year and a half and Village Manager Larry Deetjen has served for seven years. Streit pointed out that the village has wasted millions in developer giveaways and said the village has refused to put the money into drainage issues even though plans were approved by the previous board.
Streit said that the problem with Springfield and Washington D.C. is that everyone blames the previous administrations, while accomplishing little themselves. The current administration has taken its cue from those dysfunctional bodies. Desmond and Olejniczak have been on the Public Works Committee since Mayor Sandra Bury was elected, but have failed to make progress of their own. The solutions they have proposed are the same that have been suggested in years past.
The Melvina Ditch Reservoir is on the north side of 87th Street in Burbank just west of Ridgeland Avenue.
Burbank’s Mayor Harry Klein has been adamant that the reservoir has degraded significantly since 1966 when it was built. He would like the reservoir returned to its original design to increase its capacity.
When told of Burbank’s response and action compared to Oak Lawn’s discussion, Streit said that he thought the difference in the two communities was “leadership”.
“When issues occur, the Mayor and Aldermen in Burbank work to find a solution but in Oak Lawn, the Mayor and Trustees immediately blame past Mayors”, said Streit.