Editorials

Wacky logic gave $850K in weeds needing a whack

Fairview Heights leaders plan to mow, give landscaping more time to grow after spending $850,000 on the Illinois 159 interchange on Interstate 64.
Fairview Heights leaders plan to mow, give landscaping more time to grow after spending $850,000 on the Illinois 159 interchange on Interstate 64. znizami@bnd.com

Leave it to our friends in government: They can’t even grow weeds, and it costs us $850,000 for them to fail at it.

The intersection of Illinois 159 and Interstate 64 is the gateway to Fairview Heights, so local leaders wanted to spruce it up. Did they gather volunteers to pick up trash? Did they get a box of daffodil bulbs and plant the slopes? Did they have the public works folks do some extra mowing?

Nope. They spent $850,000 on trees and prairie grass and vinyl fencing. The end result is a splotchy, weedy mess spotted with dead trees.

Let that sink in: $850,000. That’s enough money to pay someone a decent wage to do nothing but keep up that intersection for 20 years.

No one in the city had the good sense to stop this project seven years ago when the expenditure was first called into question. Former Mayor Gail Mitchell pushed it: “It’s a really good project.” Current Mayor Mark Kupsky still defends it saying it just needs time to grow.

The problem is city leaders from the start treated this project as if they were getting “free” money from the feds. They received $680,000 in federal highway funds and only had to kick in $170,000 from local taxpayers.

The reality is that it was all tax dollars and they never would have spent such an exorbitant amount if the money were coming directly from their pockets.

Now their solution is to mow the pricey prairie grass so they have a “nicely mowed, green turf.”

Gee. That’s what we have at nearly every interstate interchange — minus the $850,000 worth of weeds and dead trees.

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