Community, Local, Park Forest

Solving Conflicts Via the Village’s Mediation Task Force

Mediation and Conflict Resolution by Larry Smith2010
“Conflict Resolution” by Larry Smith2010 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Occasionally, neighbors find themselves in conflict. When conflict becomes serious, residents can choose to report the issue to the village or even call the police.  Another recourse, which is not widely known, is to use is the village’s Mediation Task Force, which works with both parties to try and reach a resolution.

The conflicts for which mediation might be useful are varied but can include excessive noise complaints, property access and/or damage complaints, or general lifestyle conflicts between neighbors.  Mediation can also be used to resolve landlord/tenant conflicts.

The Mediation Task Force has been in operation in Park Forest since 1988.  The Task Force uses volunteer mediators who have been trained by the Department of Justice.  According to Evelyn Sterling-Randle, Community Relations Coordinator for the village and the facilitator of the mediation program, roughly 25 cases per year are brought to their attention for possible mediation.  About twenty percent of those cases are successfully resolved through the process.  Other situations may be resolved informally without the need for formal arbitration or, in some cases such as property line disputes, may need to be resolved through formal litigation.

Mediation may be an underused resource simply because many residents are unaware of the option.  A resident can formally request mediation by calling Sterling-Randle (708-283-5621) and informing her of the issue and the pertinent facts.  Sterling-Randle will attempt to contact the other party by phone and inform them of the complaint.  She then follows-up by sending a letter to both parties summarizing the problem and suggesting the mediation process.

In some cases, ongoing conflicts are brought to Sterling-Randle’s attention by the village housing department or the Park Forest Police Department when they believe a dispute is better handled through mediation rather than by formal police activity.  In other cases, a resident may call the Village Hall with a complaint and be referred to Sterling-Randle as a possible mediation candidate.

If both parties agree to participate in the mediation, the process commences.  After gathering the facts of the situation over the phone, an in-person discussion (or via a Zoom call if preferred) is held with the involved parties and a trained mediator.  In some cases, a village representative such as Sterling-Randle may also participate.  Assuming an agreement is reached, a document is drafted and signed which outlines the actions each party will take and by what date.  This agreement is the only document produced – all notes taken during the mediation are destroyed and all discussions are kept strictly confidential.

The goal of the Mediation Task Force is to resolve conflicts without formal litigation or other adversarial actions.  A side benefit is that allows the police to focus their limited resources elsewhere.   In the twelve years that Sterling-Randle has been involved in the process, she recalls only once instance of a mediated agreement failing to resolve the underlying issue.

Sterling-Randle encourages Park Forest residents to take advantage of their services.  A summary of the mediation process, including the ten keys to proper mediation etiquette, can be found on the village’s Mediation Task Force website.

The village currently has about seven trained volunteer mediators.  If you believe that you have the desired skills or background to be an effective mediator and are interested in becoming a volunteer mediator, or would like additional information about the process, please contact Sterling-Randle by phone or email ([email protected]).