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Park Ridge alderman takes on stalled 9/11 memorial

A beam from the World Trade Center as it was presented to the public during Hope Fest at Maine East High School in Park Ridge on Sept. 11, 2011.  |  Sun-Times Media FilesPioneer Press.

A beam from the World Trade Center as it was presented to the public during Hope Fest at Maine East High School in Park Ridge on Sept. 11, 2011. | Sun-Times Media FilesPioneer Press.

With plans for a 9/11 memorial stalled for nearly one year, one Park Ridge alderman is looking to revive the project.

Second Ward Ald. Nicholas Milissis, chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, announced on Oct. 21 that he plans to work with Fire Chief Mike Zywanski and City Manager Shawn Hamilton “to get some movement” on a memorial involving a 200-pound steel beam from the World Trade Center.

The Park Ridge Fire Department originally acquired the beam in 2011 through a program organized by the Sept. 11th Families Association and the New York and New Jersey Port Authority.

“I think we’re responsible for doing something with it,” Milissis told the City Council. “It’s been languishing in a basement all this time.”

The Park Ridge Public Art Commission had been given the task of recommending a design for the memorial, which was to have been located outside the fire station at Cumberland and Devon Avenues. But when estimates for the preferred design came in at $320,000, the project languished.

Milissis said he wants to be brought up to date on the project and determine “what we need to do to move forward … whether we want to push forward with the proposed plan they have come up with so far or scrap it and start from scratch.”

The matter should then go before the City Council to discuss, he said.

The alderman, whose day job is as a supervisor of investigators for the Department of Homeland Security, added that he does not have his own vision for the piece, other than it needs to be publicly displayed.

“The only thing I know for sure is I don’t want it to be where it is right now,” he said.

Milissis stated that the city’s financial situation may not allow it to spend a significant amount of money on a memorial, but he suggested getting ideas from other communities who have embarked on similar projects at lower costs.

“I’d like to see it displayed; I don’t think it needs to be overly elaborate,” Milissis said. “I think the piece itself is moving and representative enough of what it stands for.”

The Public Art Commission, which last met in January and has lost several members who have not yet been replaced, had discussed paying for the memorial through fundraising, but members acknowledged they had no prior experience in that area.

Neighboring Des Plaines and the North Maine Fire Department, which serves unincorporated Maine Township, created low-cost memorials with the World Trade Center steel they received, largely relying on donations of materials, labor and cash.

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