Rita Talks Mental Health Center: ‘Committed To Finding Solution’

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TINLEY PARK, IL — A state representative is speaking out regarding the reallocation of $15 million that were initially expected to go toward cleanup efforts at the former Tinley Park Mental Health Center site.

On Monday, Patch reported that the funds were reallocated from former mental health center property, which was not mentioned in the 2022 capital budget, even though the site was previously slated to receive $15 million in 2020 for cleanup efforts. In June, the funds appeared to be missing from the budget, and state representatives were unable to figure out where they had gone.

As reported Monday, in a July email exchange between Tinley Park Village Manager David Niemeyer and State Rep. Tim Ozinga, Ozinga said his research team was able to find that the funds were "re-appropriated to Blue Island within a House Democrat Article of the FY22 capital budget."

Ozinga, who previously introduced legislation to sell the property to the village, recommended the village contact State Rep. Bob Rita, who oversees Blue Island and portions of Tinley Park, for further information and clarification.

Thursday, Rita spoke with Patch over the phone, then released the following statement shortly after, at Patch’s request:

Upon receiving multiple media inquiries, I have had productive conversations today with both State Rep. Tim Ozinga and officials with the Village of Tinley Park.

Both Rep. Ozinga and I represent portions of Tinley Park. We are both committed to finding a solution for state funding for clean up at the former Tinley Park Mental Health Center site. I made that funding a priority in 2019 when the state’s capital construction program was approved, but the funding has not yet been released and provided for the project.

This year, I worked with the City of Blue Island to secure funding for the city’s infrastructure needs. To be clear: I have not and will not pit one city I represent against another. I believe all of our cities in the Southland have tens of millions of dollars in unmet needs for their infrastructure: roads and bridges, school buildings, water and sewer systems, and much more.

I have been an ardent supporter of gaming expansion and helped push through the 2019 gaming bill to support the capital construction program to accomplish this important goal of supporting all of our local communities, and communities across the state. I am encouraged by the progress we’re seeing now to move ahead with new casinos and bring in more gaming dollars, but we have much more work to do. I want to see a vibrant racetrack and a new casino in the south suburbs, and use those new dollars to inject life into our cities and neighborhoods.

I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Springfield to do what is right for Tinley Park, Blue Island, and the other communities in our district and across the Southland. I hope we can move past these frustrations and find solutions that will help all of our communities, by working together for a stronger voice."

The former mental health center property closed in 2012. It was the last of 13 state facilities of its kind built.

An inspection of the mental health center took place in early 2020, revealing numerous environmental concerns on site, such as asbestos and black mold. In May, a 2.1 million gallon water leak caused by a water main break poured into the Tinley Park sewer system and Midlothian Creek along Harlem Avenue. The village said the damages equate to $17,000 in water waste.

Two administrative hearings have been held regarding the property. The first hearing involved eight code violations at a cost of $750 each for poor sanitation, tall grass/weeds, dilapidated structures, failure to maintain the water system, accumulation of garbage, among others. Five additional violations were issued at a second hearing, also $750 each, according to Niemeyer.

via Tinley Park, IL Patch

August 5, 2021 at 06:02PM

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