By Jennifer Johnson Park Ridge Herald-Advocate
Park Ridge, IL — Design plans for a local 9/11 memorial may have been too elaborate and unreasonably expensive, one Park Ridge alderman and some members of the city’s Public Art Commission admit.
But it’s that very design concept that will be presented to the Park Ridge City Council, as aldermen will be tasked with deciding what to do next.
On Jan. 7, three members of the Art Commission — meeting for the first time in nearly a year — expressed some reservations about the estimated $320,000 project the commission endorsed in 2012. The memorial, centered around a 200-pound steel beam from the World Trade Center, was to have been displayed outside the Park Ridge Fire Station at the corner of Cumberland and Devon Avenues with a white wall of varying heights constructed around it. Plans call for the steel piece, obtained by the fire department in 2011, to be encased and illuminated at night.The Art Commission agreed with suggestions from City Manager Shawn Hamilton and 2nd Ward Ald. Nicholas Milissis to send the design to the City Council for discussion and feedback during a Public Safety Committee of the Whole meeting, likely in February.
Milissis, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, was not certain who would be responsible for redesigning the memorial, if that is what is desired, though he did say it would not be the job of aldermen.
“I don’t expect aldermen there sketching out designs and passing them around for us to vote on,” he said. “But obviously it’s going to need City Council approval.”
The design recommended by the Public Art Commission was developed by Myefski Architects, Inc. at no cost to the city. The City Council last saw the design in October 2012, but had little feedback for the Art Commission. Milissis and 4th Ward Alderman Roger Shubert have since joined the council.
On Jan. 7, Commissioner Natalie Bontumasi said she felt the design had become more “elaborate” than it should have been, giving the impression the commission “ran wild with this thing.” She said she felt the memorial should have been “simpler.”
Milissis agreed it was “more elaborate than it needs to be,” due to the wall build-out and lighting which he felt took away from the piece itself.
“I envision something more understated and simple, just because the piece kind of speaks for itself and what it stands for,” he said.
Commissioner Judy Brady said she believed the design really was simple, but its price tag was an issue.
“I think maybe costs were really unrealistic to start with,” she said.
Commissioner Kim Garber agreed the proposed cost was “incredibly expensive.” The commission had stated that the project would be funded entirely through donations and not with taxpayer money, but no fundraising plan was developed.
“I don’t really care what it looks like if it’s something that is protected and is respectful,” Garber added.
Hamilton told the commissioners that members of the police and fire department unions have volunteered to provide time, labor and materials if a 9/11 memorial is constructed. Milissis said he, too, has been contacted by interested citizens since he expressed a desire in October to resume talks regarding the memorial.
“Sitting in the basement of the firehouse is not where we want it to be,” he said of the World Trade Center piece.
Hamilton suggested that the memorial could be relocated from the Devon Avenue fire station to property between City Hall and the new police department storage building. This property, he said, includes a green, landscaped area and is under camera surveillance at all times, which would minimize the likelihood of vandalism.
Last year, Fire Chief Mike Zywanski, Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Sorensen and the fire department’s Senior Administrative Assistant Jennifer Steurer disagreed with locating the piece in front of the fire station rather than behind the station where there is parking and less traffic. Steurer, who was involved in obtaining the World Trade Center piece for the fire department, also wrote to the Art Commission expressing unhappiness with the cost of the proposed project and the lack of a fundraising plan.