Mundelein village hall

Mundelein officials agreed to cut checks for the first 16 properties needed to start a Hawley Street improvement project. The village also agreed to build a parking lot at Carl Sandburg Middle School in exchange for five pieces of land. (Dan Waters, Chicago Tribune / February 27, 2014)

Mundelein officials are ready to pay for the first half of 44 properties they need to acquire to begin Hawley Street improvements.

Trustees recently agreed to cut checks for 16 pieces of land along an approximately mile-long stretch of Hawley slated to be widened and repaved this year. They also agreed to build a parking lot at Carl Sandburg Middle School in exchange for five pieces of property.

For both temporary easements and land acquisition, officials agreed to pay about $60,000 for the first round of properties it needs, according to village documents.

The highest payment the board approved was to one resident, who received $20,000 from the village to sell 1,350 square feet of land — about $14.81 per square foot — and $6,000 to grant the village a temporary easement on 2,580 square feet — about $2.33 per square foot— according to village documents.

The land temporarily obtained through easements will be used for utility work and storage of equipment, officials said.

Mayor Steve Lentz said he expected residents to start picking up their checks this week.

According to village-commissioned appraisals of the remaining pieces of land, Mundelein expects to pay out approximately $141,000 more — for both easements and outright acquisitions — to secure the rest of the necessary property.

One property owner's land was appraised at $70,000 for 2,390 square feet that the village is looking to acquire, documents show.

The village also got five parcels of land from Mundelein Elementary School District 75. Because the property includes on-street parking spots that will be eliminated with construction, the village agreed to pay for the construction of a parking lot at the middle school.

Part of the contract between the town and school district calls for a construction fence to be placed on the north end of the school's property, from Midlothian Road to California Avenue, as well as any construction areas on District 75's property.

The agreement also calls for crossing guards to be in place throughout the construction — which is expected to take about two years — at Midlothian Road and California Avenue.

Officials approved the agreements without discussion after an hour-long executive session at a recent board meeting.

In October, Village Administrator John Lobaito was given the OK to move forward with eminent domain measures, which would allow the village to forcibly buy property, if necessary.

While the town got close about 40 years ago, Village Attorney Charles Marino said Mundelein has never actually had to resort to using its eminent domain rights.

Attorney Larry LaLuzerne, whose firm represents the village, said this likely will be the first time.

While Adam Boeche, director of public works and engineering, said the village has been able to get in contact with all homeowners at some point in the process, officials have said it's been difficult to negotiate on properties that are owned by the bank through mortgage or foreclosure.

LaLuzerne said for one property in particular, the previous owner died and left his estate to heirs, but not all the beneficiaries have been tracked down.

On other properties, residents just haven't accepted the village's offers.

"We'll just keep plugging away," LaLuzerne said.

Boeche said the village is still in active negotiations with the remaining property owners.

If it becomes necessary, LaLuzerne said he hoped to get legislation approved to use eminent domain rights on the remaining properties by April or May.

Boeche said he expected the county to go out for bids on the project in summer, with the hopes that the construction could get under way in the fall.

Lentz said he's excited to get repairs started.

It's a deteriorating stretch of road that is badly in need of repairs, Lentz said.

"Just drive down Hawley," he said. "It's a project just doing that."

The job calls for water and sewer lines to be replaced. There is also a planned multi-use bike path, which drew criticism from residents at a public hearing in December.

Officials said Lake County insisted on the inclusion of the bike path. Because the county is paying for a good chunk of the project — Mundelein will pay about a quarter of the anticipated $8 million cost — town officials said it was a requirement.

dwaters@tribune.com | Twitter: @danwaters33