Keystone Park turf decision postponed until June

Park board president gives new commissioners time to study issue

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

The long-simmering decision over whether to install artificial turf for Keystone Park's baseball diamonds will have to wait two months longer.

In March, the park board agreed to hold a hearing on April 4 and vote on the matter no later than April 8. But commissioners agreed to not only cancel the hearing, but at their April 8 meeting postponed the discussion until June. 

By that point, the two new commissioners elected on April 2 will have a chance to settle in. It also removes the possibility of a tie vote – something that became an issue after Commissioner Molly Hague resigned in February, leaving the board one member short until May. 

Even if the board decides to proceed with the turf, construction won't start until 2020 at the earliest.

The proposal has attracted opposition from residents who argue artificial turf poses environmental and health risks. Others argue that the health risks are exaggerated and that an artificial turf is a practical solution to reducing flooding, allowing more games to be played. 

The park district has researched several alternatives to artificial turf, but that research found that those alternatives were more expensive and had some disadvantages of their own. 

At the April 8 meeting, park board President Ross Roloff, in a prepared statement, explained why the public hearing was cancelled, noting the possibility of a tie vote. 

On Feb. 21, Hague informed the board that her house sold faster than she expected, and that she and her family were moving out of the village on March 8. Because park district commissioners must live in the village, she had no choice but to resign.  

Two seats were up for grabs during the April 2 election, the seats of Hague and board Treasurer Peter Kuzmich. 

Hague didn't run for re-election, leaving Kuzmich facing off against two new candidates, Mark Brown and Dennis Healy, who won the two four-year terms.

Since the park board's May meeting will serve as a transitional session, Roloff said he would have the Keystone Park matter on the agenda in June.

"I will ask the new commissioners [Brown and Healy] to get up to speed on turf discussion in all due haste," Roloff said. "It was discussed many times [before] and you were at most, if not all, of the meetings [in question]. We should be able to continue a substantive discussion of turf proposal at the June meeting."

He added that his inclination was not to hold a hearing before hand. 

"I'm not sure we should be having a public hearing over the summer while a lot of people are gone [on vacation]," Roloff said.

However, he felt that the two-month delay would give new and returning commissioners more time to review the evidence and carefully consider the issue. Roloff also asked the staff to use the delay as an opportunity to track how many games are cancelled due to rain. 

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