I urgently request each and every River Forest resident to consider, question and demand answers to the following prior to the Feb. 2 referendum.
1) What is the dollar amount of the proposed $8 million bond referendum that will be earmarked for the purchase, renovation or demolition, construction costs, programs, new staff, equipment and maintenance of the Oilily building? The park district should provide this information in writing.
2) The park district has operating-trade agreements with six area schools that each have gyms. Are six school gyms, plus the community center, not enough gym space?
3) Does the park district have a published facilities-use plan? If, as the park district board claims, “their programs have been exploding in registration,” they should provide residents a published plan for what programs would use the building from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
4) Why have the residents of River Forest not been provided with a budget showing the operational costs of this facility spread across all their programs? The operational costs should include maintenance, electric, reserve for repairs and new-staff expenses. They should provide this budget information before claiming that costs will be absorbed by program fees. What happens when programs do not fill up? It should be noted that the park district canceled all of its reserved gym times at the community center in both November and December; 10 blocks of gym time total.
The park district claims that no definitive plans have been made on the fate of the nearly 100-year-old Jens Jensen-designed park and tennis courts to the north of the Oilily building.
At the Nov. 18 park district meeting, we were presented with two sets of architectural drawings. Both proposed plans overtook and destroyed the park and tennis courts with an 80-car parking lot. If it is true that no decisions on the building have been made, why do they have finished drawings and a recently approved construction company? If the park district really has no definitive plans as they claim, just what is it we are being asked to approve $8 million for?
At the Dec. 14 park district meeting, board member Ron Steele had the audacity to state that “If this project were not across the street from your houses, none of you people (in attendance) would be here.” While I do live across the street from Washington Square Park and tennis courts, several people who spoke at that meeting (Rick Dale, Doug Anderson, Peggy Mizen and Nancy McCracken) do not.
Like me, they are against this referendum for reasons as varied as the cost of the project, no definitive plan, potential tax increase as opposed to tax decrease, and the preservation of a historic and valued green space in River Forest.
Thank you for taking the time to consider these issues and please remember to get out and vote “no” on Feb. 2.
Joe Montroy, a River Forest resident for 20 years, lives across the street from Washington Square Park, where the park district is proposing its new rec center.