The management structure of the River Forest Civic Center Authority could be changing as administrators from River Forest village and township governments soon begin setting priorities on collaborative efforts between the two governments that could start in the coming months.
After a historic meeting Monday night between elected officials, Village Administrator Eric Palm and Township Supervisor Carla Sloan will examine the intricacies of Civic Center issues, which are already being studied by the township. The pair also will explore if there may be space for the township to be housed at village hall.
Other possibilities on the table after Monday's meeting include funneling township committee openings and other township information through the village website.
All of the village trustees were present; township elected officials not in attendance were trustees Mark Kelty and Mary O'Brien.
There is no timetable for when any of the list of efforts raised Monday will be tackled. There also is no indication of when the elected officials will meet again. Leaders, though, came out of the meeting encouraged.
"This is just the start of our conversation. … There are common areas to work on," said Village President Catherine Adduci, who called for a collaborative effort between the two units of government shortly after her state of the village address in May. "Eric and Carla will take care of the next steps. This will take some time."
Sloan agreed. "There is a lot here that merits consideration," she said.
The item that most likely will merit immediate attention will be the Civic Center Authority building, also known as the community center, 8020 Madison St. Sloan said that for about a year, township trustees have been trying to reshape the structure of this complex relationship and more clearly spell out how the costs flow so that people can "make more sense of it." Township trustees are also assessing the "fair market value" of the position of the building manager, who since 2000 has been Dick Chappell, who also serves as the executive director of the community center.
The Civic Center Authority is a distinct unit of government created by state legislation in 1984. Township trustees are on the CCA board, which manages the community center building. The community center, a non-profit that has been in operation since the 1970s, runs the center's programs; a separate board of directors oversees the programming.
Historically, Sloan said, this integrated relationship was set up for many good reasons and the relationship made sense. "It worked, and it was good, but we need to move forward," she said.
Adduci noted that the village government also manages the operations of buildings, such as village hall, the fire department, public works and others. One notion that administrators may examine is whether public works can weigh in on building management and consider including the village department when any building improvements are needed there.
In addition to talking about possible collaboration efforts, the 90-minute meeting focused on answering a myriad of trustee questions about township operations and areas where collaboration would not be deemed likely, including the assessor's office and General Assistance.
Sloan ruled out a suggestion from the village that a human services commission be set up to tackle village-wide concerns related to seniors, youth and mental health. A community liaison could be appointed, however, to each committee and report back to the village.
A committee on seniors and another on youth consist of people from both River Forest and Oak Park as they focus on programs that can be used by residents in both communities. The programs themselves are administered by Oak Park Township. River Forest has its own mental health commission.
Youth and mental health committees review grant applications and recommend funding to agencies that perform services for residents. Funding is approved by respective township boards. Senior programs are not funded through a grant process but get their dollars from Cook County and the state.
Some of the efforts identified Monday could be seen as small, but that discussions are taking place at all is huge as for months the village and the township were at loggerheads over proposed state legislation which could have led to a local referendum resulting in the merger of the two governments.
Adduci was a strong backer of HB 4425, the referendum bill sponsored in the General Assembly by Rep. Chris Welch (D-7th). The bill was put on hold when Welch could not muster support for its passage in committee.
Other previous attempts at discussing consolidation or collaboration were not realized in recent years. Talks fizzled before they even got started in 2012. Just this past January, a discussion about the bill between Welch and village and township officials was unproductive.
Talks this winter between Palm and Sloan were unproductive, and no other discussions were re-scheduled. The township sought a meeting this winter to talk about its programs and services. Village trustees preferred to see talks continue between respective administrators.