After heated debate, Oak Lawn votes to pay for 9-11 memorial completion

By Steve Metsch Southtown Star

A view of the detail on the Oak Lawn Rotary Club's 9/11 First Responder Memorial at the Oak Lawn Metra Station Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, at 9525 S. Tulley in Oak Lawn. Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

A view of the detail on the Oak Lawn Rotary Club’s 9/11 First Responder Memorial at the Oak Lawn Metra Station Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, at 9525 S. Tulley in Oak Lawn. Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

The use of village funds to finish a 9-11 memorial sparked a heated argument among Oak Lawn village trustees last week, with accusations of broken promises flying and one trustee saying the action was “insulting … the freedoms the memorial represents.”

The board voted 4 to 2 on June 10 to spend $34,000 to buy granite from Illinois Brick to complete the memorial at the Oak Lawn Metra train station.

As has been the norm for months, the vote was divided between trustees who support Mayor Sandra Bury and those who tend to oppose her. Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) and Carol Quinlan (5th) voted against the measure, saying the original plan for the memorial called for no village funding.

Trustees Tim Desmond (1st), Alex Olejniczak (2nd), Terry Vorderer (4th) and Mike Carberry (6th), who tend to side with Bury, voted in favor of the spending plan.

Streit and Quinlan both pointed out the memorial was supposed to be paid for by funds raised by the Oak Lawn Rotary Club and private contributions. Bury was the Rotary Club’s fundraising chair at the time and had not yet been elected mayor.

“The memorial is an inspirations to the community, no doubt,” Streit said. “When it was announced, it was to be funded by the Oak Lawn Rotary Club and private contribution … (now) the board is being asked to divert money from the drug forfeiture fund to the monument.”

Village Manager Larry Deetjen said the money is not from the drug forfeitures but from the parking lot funds, and the parking garage is located near the monument, he noted.

Streit said that while he is happy to honor those who died in the 9-11 terrorist attacks, “the actions (of the board) are wantonly insulting the idea of transparency and the freedoms the memorial represents.”

Quinlan said she agreed.

“I wish Oak Lawn did have a lot of money, but when this memorial was talked about, there were not going to be any village funds, the taxpayers weren’t paying for it,” she said. “It was going to be private donations and the Rotary Club. I’m not saying this is not worthy but it’s wrong.”

In an outburst, Desmond, apparently directing his words at Streit, said, “I never thought I’d see the day a sworn official would actually deny a memorial to men and women who died. It’s a disgrace. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Noting the countless volunteer hours put in by those who helped build the memorial, Deetjen called it “a wonderful project.

“What is before you tonight is taking monies from the parking lot fund to be used to maintain public areas around the parking lots,” Deetjen said.

The money is needed to “put the finishing touches” on the memorial, he said.

At the end of the debate, Vorderer said, “I’m tired of going to 9-11 ceremonies to an unfinished memorial. I’m thrilled to death by this. Let’s get it done.”

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