Oak Park park district opts out of shared facility proposal with District 97

Statement says project not the right fit right now

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

The Park District of Oak Park Board of Commissioners decided last week they will stop exploring the possibility of a shared administrative facility with District 97 on the parking lot of Village Hall.

A statement sent Friday from the park district indicated that the decision to withdraw their involvement came after the board thoroughly studied and discussed the potential benefits and challenges of the proposal. The project would have relocated each entity's maintenance staff and put their current administration buildings at 218 Madison St. and 970 Madison St. back on the market.

Officials held two public meetings about the proposal, where residents voiced opposition to the project. People were concerned that it would create more traffic in an already busy area and take away parking that is inadequate now. Some said it was foolish to put two buildings up for sale in a bad market.

The park district always places a high priority on community input, said its executive director, Jan Arnold, and based on that and their assessment so far of how much underground parking might cost, "it would be a high price to pay."

The two entities estimated the project would cost $6-10 million, and Arnold said she could not speculate on how much more it might cost taking parking into account. Each group has money set aside for maintenance at their facilities that they said could go toward the project, as well as scheduled reimbursements to D97 from the Madison Street TIF.

The park district is still open to looking at collaboration opportunities with D97, whether that means another shared facility at a different location or through field sharing, Arnold said.

"While this proposed project isn't the right fit for us now, the park district is always interested in exploring opportunities that could benefit village residents with improved services and taxpayer savings," park board President Christine Graves said in the statement.

D97 officials said in a separate statement also sent Friday that they were surprised by the park district's decision to forego the project, especially with a village financial analysis still pending. That analysis was expected to be completed by the end of the month.

The statement went on to say that D97 respects the decision, but providing their administration with an improved, functional facility "remains a top priority." The Facilities Advisory Committee will continue to be involved in these efforts so they can join forces with other local governing bodies to identify a viable solution, the statement said.

Reader Comments

8 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Village Voice  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 2:09 PM

@Watching: Why am I not surprised? To D97 it seems, the newly freed up TIF money is "found" money, not to be used on our children's education or relieving hardpressed taxpayers but for building a new palace for themselves.

Watching   

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 1:44 PM

Parks may be pulling out but D97 is going strong with a "public meeting" in a private house on Dec. 4. Topics include "administration builidng TIF". See D97 Facilities Committee meeting agenda for info. Why so private a setting for a public mtg?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: November 21st, 2012 7:21 AM

We need to now hold D97 accountable for maintaining their current facility, rather than allowing deferred maintenance and repair be used to argue for a new building. Send over village building inspectors.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2012 7:14 PM

Posted this awhile ago. Political party tagged w/being out of touch w/voters floats an idea of an expensive project that they know will not be built to prove to the voters that they didnt listen to them b4,but listen to them now.Vote 4 us now.

marilyn johnson from forest park  

Posted: November 19th, 2012 7:14 PM

Lived inOP for 32 years, and am now "next door" in Forest Park. This is one of the few and most sensible decision OP has made.Congrats to the Park District.

A Realist from Oak Park  

Posted: November 19th, 2012 3:48 PM

As a taxpayer, I'm not going to let my aim wander from the D97 Board. Their 2010 tax referendum was for "art and music" for students. Yet, they've got a few million left over for a shiny new HQ. Fraud on the taxpayers?

Galen Gockel from Oak Park  

Posted: November 19th, 2012 1:55 PM

Good for the Park Board!. It is upholding its deserved reputation as one of the more responsible taxing bodies in Oak Park. The concept of sharing space with D97 is admirable, but that location made no sense whatsoever.

Tired of Taxes from Oak Park  

Posted: November 19th, 2012 12:46 PM

I have spent alot of time in the District 97 offices and it would seem that they could find room to temporarily house the Parks office. If they could sell the old Parks office, then they could consider a new combined office, but not earlier.

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