Local, Park Forest, Schools

District 227 Responds to FOIA Request, Questions about Storage at Rich East Unanswered

picture os stacjs of white pallets, rolls of material covered in brown, and a forklift
Questions remain about the storage of material at the former Rich East High School, (Photo John Hudzik)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- eNews Park Forest has received the response from Rich Township High School District 227 to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about the storage of materials in the parking lots of the former Rich East High School. The request was asking for information and documents pertaining to the authorization of the storage, payments, if any, the district received in exchange for the storage, and any notice given to the Village of Park Forest.

A one-line response was received on November 9: “The District has not located any responsive records, and none are believed to exist.”

The lack of documentation or records leads one to believe that the district has allowed a third party to store a significant amount of material on district property without any formal approval being given whatsoever and raises questions about the level of oversight and responsibility exhibited by the district leadership.

To recap events up to this point, pallets full of white foam and rolls of black roofing materials began to arrive in the parking lots about six weeks ago. The Village of Park Forest was subsequently informed that the material was for reroofing the district high schools. eNews Park Forest, however, was told by a district representative that it was for use in the construction of the Matteson 57 Commerce Center, a new warehouse being built behind Menard’s. New material continues arriving, and the parking lot off Sauk Trail is full.

eNews confirmed that the Village had not received any update since their initial inquiry.

After receiving the reply to its FOIA request, eNews Park Forest sent a follow-up letter to district officials with additional questions. Specifically, the letter is as follows:

Thank you for your response to the FOIA request recently submitted by eNews Park Forest regarding the material storage in the parking lots of the former Rich East High School at 300 Sauk Trail in Park Forest.

Given the magnitude of the material currently located in the lots, it is surprising that the district has apparently allowed this to occur without any written authorization whatsoever or any communication with the Village of Park Forest.

Can you please clarify the following points:

1. Can you explain the purpose of the materials being stored in the lots, including the location of their final utilization? eNews Park Forest has heard two conflicting explanations: a) it is for the roofing of the district high school buildings, and b) it is for the construction of the Matteson 57 Commerce Center Project.

2. Can you provide the name of the person who authorized the storage of the materials?

3. Can you provide information on how long the materials are expected to remain in the lots?

4. Can you provide the rationale for why permission was granted for the storage of the material in the lots?

5. If the material is for use in the construction of the Matteson 57 Commerce Center, can you explain why the former Rich East lots were chosen for storage of materials to be used for a commercial enterprise not associated with Rich Township District 227, and located in the Village of Park Forest rather than one of many open areas in the Village of Matteson located closer to the building site?

6. Can you explain what entity is assuming liability for any damage or injury that might occur as a result of the material storage?

Any additional insight into the rationale for the use of the parking lots for this storage would be greatly appreciated.

We are hopeful that district officials will be forthcoming with answers to the questions posed and the apparent secrecy behind the storage ended. eNews Park Forest will report the district’s response when received.