Twenty blocks in Austin neighborhood eyed for street repairs

Upgrades planned for selected neighborhoods, says Ervin

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By ELLYN FORTINO

Some 20 blocks in Austin will be resurfaced, have street lights improved and curbs fixed as part of Ald. Jason Ervin's (28th) "menu money" for the year, the alderman has announced.

Ervin outlined the plan at a recent ward meeting. Although there are many streets that need repairing in Austin, Ervin said there are 20 blocks needing to be fixed with available funds.

"There are a number of streets over in the area that we know need resurfacing," Ervin said to constituents during a ward meeting at the West Side Learning Center, 4620 W. Madison.

"We don't have the dollars to hit them all in one year, but we have for us to do 20," Ervin said. "This is just in Austin. Mind you, we have East and West Garfield Park, North Lawndale, Little Village, so you all are getting a big chunk of the dollars over here in the Austin community in the 28th Ward."

He said 20 blocks is a lot in any one area.

"There are a lot of wards that don't do 20 blocks and, we are doing 20 blocks just in Austin, number one, because it needs it, and we want to try to spruce the community up when we can," Ervin said.

Streets including Washington, Madison, Jackson, Cicero and Laramie will receive arterial lighting improvements with available menu money - which totals about $1 million per ward, per year. The money is given to aldermen from the city for capital improvements.

Also at the meeting was Austin's new police Commander Barbara West and 15th Police District Captain Mark Scheithauer. Ervin reached out to West about a few problem locations in the ward, including two stretches of area along North Leclaire Avenue.

People have been selling drugs and drinking on the streets, said West, who has assigned a tactical team to those locations since learning about the problem areas.

"Of course, it's going to require some community involvement, because as you know ... once we leave a location open, the next seller is going to try to take it over and re-establish it, and that's why we need the community to step in," she said.

In addition, West said teenagers are beginning to gather at night on the streets in the ward. If residents see a congregation of people on the streets, West encouraged them to call 911 before more people show up.

"You know what's about to happen," she said. "Cars start rolling up, and then the music blares up, and then they are partying in the middle of the street."

The 15th Police District also sent a tactical team to a troubled building at 716 N. Leclaire, where officers have made a few arrests, said Scheithauer. The city's Troubled Buildings initiative, he noted, can investigate of who owns such a building. But if community and police efforts can't curtail the illegal activity then "other means," are used, Scheithauer said.

"If that means we close that building down because it's unsafe for whatever reason, then that's the tool that we're going to use," he said.

austintalks.org@gmail.com

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