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2 Investigators: County Spends $2 Million On Paid-Parking System, Then Rips It Up

Friday, May 29, 2015
CBS Local
by Pam Zekman

Nearly $2 million spent by Cook County for a project designed to increase revenue has now been wasted.

CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports on how it happened and why the county is now demolishing what your tax dollars paid for.

It may have been a well-intended idea: charging workers and visitors to park in lots at six suburban courthouses. But the project was poorly planned, and the execution was bungled. Now, the county is removing some of the work.

Workers recently began jackhammering concrete lane dividers at the Skokie Court house –removing part of a $1.9 million dollar project to install pay-for-parking systems at six county courthouses, including Rolling Meadows, Markham and Bridgeview and Maywood.

Electric wiring was installed, and shacks were built for a parking operator.

Analysts estimated that over three years the parking revenue would total $11.4 million as they convinced Cook County commissioners to approve it.

“This is a situation in which people were trying to find reasonable amounts of revenue without having to raise taxes on the citizens,” Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin says.

But county employees, from judges to trades professionals, raised a huge stink about having to pay for parking.

“What about victims who are there to testify in their cases? What about seniors who are coming to the courthouse to deal with their property taxes?” Suffredin says. “And so we began to exempt people.”

Officials say they’re planning to remove all of the lane dividers and other infrastructure as they abandon the paid parking project. It turns out the lanes were so narrow snow plows and some emergency vehicles could not get through, and drivers were running into them.

All of this raises the question about why these problems weren’t anticipated before construction began and almost $2 million in taxpayer money was spent.

“A number of us were not wild about this from the beginning,” Suffredin says. “And I think obviously there were some mistakes made the way it was designed.”

Visitors to the courthouse agree that the planning process appeared to have been botched.

“Absolutely makes me ridiculously mad because it’s my money and your money and everyone else who’s walking around,” Marla Kols says.

Workers have begun covering up the failed project with concrete.

Officials say the demolition work is being done by county employees and will cost about $25,000 for all of the courthouses. They are capping the electrical wiring, in case this administration or a future one decides to move forward with a paid parking program. For now, the project is dead.

 

To watch this entire piece click here



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