Wednesday, November 18, 2020 || By Igor Studenkov || @maywoodnews
Now that the voters have overwhelmingly approved a referendum that will allow Westchester to sell $42 million in bonds to help cover the costs of repair and replacing a significant portion streets, alleys, sewers and water mains, the village has been preparing for the first round of projects.
According to the election results posted on the Cook County Clerk’s website, as of Nov. 14, 71 percent of the voters voted in favor of the referendum. Roughly 75 percent of Westchester’s registered voters voted on the referendum.
Westchester Village Manager Paul Nosek said that the village is currently preparing for the first round of projects, which would kick off in the spring of 2021.
Residents will be able to purchase bonds before institutional investors can, allowing some of the tax dollars used to pay off bonds to come back to resident in the long run, he said.
And Nosek said that the village is in the process of putting together a page on its website where residents will be able to follow each project’s progress. But he emphasized that much of it is still a work in progress, and it will be a few more weeks before Westchester can share any concrete details.
The referendum was necessary to allow Westchester to issue a large amount of debt. While it would take 20 years for the village to pay it off, Nosek and other officials have argued that the expense was necessary given the growing deferred maintenance backlog.
In the run-up to the referendum, Westchester held two virtual town halls and one in-person town hall. It also set up a referendum page on its website, going into detail about each project, how paying off bonds would impact property taxes and which projects will be in their area.
With the referendum approved, Westchester can start figuring out the details of which projects it will work on first. Nosek said that they would have to prepare the bids for various project contracts. He also indicated that the finance team is having discussions with the village’s financial advisors on when to issue the first round of bonds, and how many bonds will be issued to cover the first round of projects.
The goal, Nosek explained, is to come up with the list of projects in time for the upcoming construction season. While the exact timing would depend on the weather, he said that it usually kicks off in April-May.
Nosek said that, just as the village tried to be as transparent as possible with the referendum, it will be transparent with the projects.
“The [Information Technology department] is in the process of creating a web page so that residents can follow along with the progress of the projects on an interactive basis,” he said.
In his report during the Nov. 10 Westchester village board meeting, Nosek said that the village plans to give Westchester residents first opportunity to buy bonds – but the village staff and financial advisors will have to work out the details first.
On Nov. 17, Nosek said that they are still working out the details.
During the Nov. 10 meeting, Village President Paul Gattuso thanked the staff for the outreach they did and said that he was impressed and grateful that the referendum passed by such a large margin.
“In times of COVID, in times of this, it shows how much the residents want to buy into our town and what we do,” Gattuso said.