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$100 million plan OKd by forest district

Thursday, October 07, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times

The Cook County Forest Preserve District voted Wednesday to issue $100 million in bonds to fix up the preserves, Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden -- an ambitious spending plan that could cost homeowners an extra $3 in taxes each year.

During a heated meeting, adversaries of county board President John Stroger unsuccessfully tried to stall the spending, saying the county-controlled district should at least wait until Stroger reveals next month how he hopes to pay it.

Several commissioners expect property taxes will need to be raised above the usual annual increase.

Half of the $100 million is slated for repairs of paths, lots and buildings in the preserves. The other half is intended for repairs at the zoo and Botanic Garden. Mena Boulanger, vice president of Brookfield Zoo, said the zoo will use the money for "the kinds of things you can't raise private dollars for'' -- necessary but mundane projects such as repairing the roof of the Australia House and recoating the dolphin pools.

Anne-Marie St. Germaine, vice president external affairs for the Botanic Garden, said renovation projects include repaving parking lots and repairing bridges.

Commissioner Forrest Claypool argued too little detail was being offered by Stroger on how much of the money will be spent. "The Cook County Board of Commissioners are mushrooms for the administration," he said. "We're kept in the dark and fed a bunch of you know what."

Stroger argued the improvements are badly needed.

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