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Cities’ Leaders Embarrassed by RV Rental

August 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

It wasn’t planes, trains or automobiles, but a 29-foot rented motorhome that carried Oak Lawn and Chicago Ridge officials to Springfield on a day trip in April.

Now the recreational vehicle’s rental is causing a minor flap around Oak Lawn’s village hall after the owners of rental company Bridgeview RV contacted Mayor Dave Heilmann earlier this month to help them collect the $275 bill, the Southtown Star reported.

That was the first that Heilmann, who didn’t attend the day trip, said he had heard of the rental.

Village manager Larry Deetjen; Oak Lawn Trustees Tom Duhig, Tom Phelan and Bob Streit; and Chicago Ridge Trustees Mike Davies and Brad Grove used the RV to travel to Springfield for Legislative Day, an annual opportunity for local officials to pitch their wish lists to state leaders.

Heilmann, who said he provides legal help occasionally to Bridgeview RV when they have to collect outstanding debts, called it “embarrassing” for the village to lag on its bills. What’s more, Heilmann said he can’t figure out why the village would need an RV in the first place.

“If you need to go to Springfield, you get in your car and go,” he said. “This wasn’t a camping trip to Springfield, it was a Legislative Day. … It sets a bad example.”

The bill since has been paid for the RV, a Winnebago equipped with a bed, couch and dinette that seats 10 people and can sleep six or seven, Bridgeview RV owner Evelyn Wingo said. The company received a check for the full amount July 16, three months after the April 14 rental.

Village manager Larry Deetjen chalked up the missing payment to an administrative mix-up but defended the decision to rent the RV for the day. Officials put in a 20-hour day, leaving village hall at 6 a.m. and returning at 2 a.m. the next morning, and using an RV gave them a chance to clean up and change before meetings, Deetjen said.

“It comes down to a very economical trip,” he said.

Oak Lawn covered $200 of the tab, Deetjen said, and Chicago Ridge covered the remaining $75. The village uses the standard Internal Revenue Service reimbursement rate of 50 cents a mile for approved travel, so if Oak Lawn’s officials had car-pooled in a personal vehicle for the 195-mile trip, the cost to the village would have been approximately the same.

Still, Heilmann said, the village could have been on the hook for much more money if the RV had been involved in an accident. The vehicles can be hard to drive, he said, and their reputation as traveling party buses gives the wrong impression to village residents.

“I think everyone knows why you take RVs,” he said. “It’s not a lot of money; it’s just a dumb thing to do.”

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