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Cook County Board signs off on transfer of 176 acres at Oak Forest Hospital to forest preserve district

Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

The Cook County Board today approved the transfer of 176 acres at the south suburban Oak Forest Hospital campus to the Forest Preserve District, in part to repay a debt.

The forest preserve district board will consider the deal for the land at the southwest corner of 159th Street and Crawford Avenue, valued at nearly $15.1 million.

But the district would only pay about $1.8 million to the county. The rest would be considered already received after the district gave $13.3 million to the county to help it close a budget gap in 2007.

At the time, Board President Todd Stroger said the $13.3 million would serve as repayment for two cash transfers the county made to the district in 2001 and 2002.But no loan documents could be found, and Forest Preserve District advocates demanded the county agree to reimburse the district for the 2007 payment in the form of a subsequent land transfer.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Forest Preserve District Exec. Dir. Benjamin Cox said the county should not pay for the land, noting that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has transferred land to the district without demanding payment.

“As residents of the county, we already own the land,” Cox said. “Why do we have to pay for it now?”

The deal is likely to go through Thursday because county commissioners double as the forest preserve board.

Stroger, who also serves as forest preserve district president, responded: “This is two different governmental bodies. We are giving them property, as we said we would. So they are making out very well. They are getting a good piece of land.”

Oak Forest Hospital is part of the county’s Health and Hospitals System. The county bought the 329-acre campus in 1908. It now includes a pauper’s cemetery, a potential Native American archaeological site, a wood area, a lake and cleared areas.

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