Negative letter unfair to park district

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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We are all experiencing loss, fear, uncertainty and economic hardships right now. So perhaps that is what drove Cory Wesley to write his negative take on the decisions made by the Park District of Oak Park [Put people over projects, Viewpoints, May 13]. 

Through research I discovered that he received the same information I did on their decision-making regarding the new recreation center. I wish he had not simplified the issue and maligned a well-run municipal agency. We would all like our governments to support residents as fully as possible during this pandemic. 

But in my research I discovered that the monies to be used are not a discretionary slush fund to be used however the park district decides. They cannot be used to support employees who have been furloughed — a furlough not a layoff — specifically chosen so employees would not lose their health coverage. 

The PARC grant may be used only for construction and expires in 24 months. To take advantage of this grant the district had to have a construction plan and funds were solicited for this purpose. None of these funds could be used for salaries.

Wesley also neglected to mention all full- and part-time employees were given three weeks' pay after the stay-at-home order was instituted. 

With all the negativity and divisiveness abounding right now, let's not overlook the facts.

Joan Slanina

Oak Park

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Craig Williams  

Posted: May 27th, 2020 5:08 PM

(1 of 2) Joan you say let's not overlook the facts and thus completely attacked the Opinion piece by Mr. Wesley without fully understanding what he was trying to say thus you yourself are not fully understanding the facts and what he was trying to say. First, the PARC grant (Max of $2.5M) mentioned is currently an Illinois grant that the Park District has APPLIED for from the state of Illinois. It is yet an unknown if the given the current fiscal crisis at the state level if the Park District will ever see this money. Second, in hopes that the grant will still come through the current stipulation is that once received construction must be completed in 24 Months and thus the Park District moved forward with signing a $1.2M contract for Architect and Engineering Services. Third, the Park District had to furlough some full time and a lot of part time employees. Given those facts, particularly given the grant is not 100% guaranteed Mr. Wesley's piece is merely throwing up concern that given that a mere fraction of the total cost of the potential Community Center Costs is up in the air and details of the full financing of the projects are unknown (Still seem to be $9.5M short in fundraising) why sign a contract for architect and engineering services while putting folks on furlough.

Craig Williams  

Posted: May 27th, 2020 5:07 PM

(2 of 2) To ask some additional facts I'de be curious if your research could provide these answers for me as the Park District and the Park Board have lacked the transparency in terms of full financing and potential operating revenues/expenses once opened. What is the current fundraising total (beyond land donated already $2M) and $1.1M noted as of Nov 2019 per the Parks Foundations last fundraising communication since simple math shows they still need to raise at least $9.5M? Is the Township/CMHB still going to give them $1.5M (Almost 100% of which is Property Taxes)? The $5M Park District Fund balance set aside for this project how was that accumulated; Property Taxes, Fees or Both? Is the State Capital Funds of $875,000 still going to come too allocated given current state finances? Have they discussed with the 500 Block of Highland a potential of their street being closed just south of Madison if this moves forward? Let me know thanks.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: May 27th, 2020 1:49 PM

If you simplify the issue, you quickly realize that a capital project is going on that will use tax payer funds. And the project is being done in a way that will not allow the taxpayers to vote on it. The only logical reason to avoid the taxpayers voting is because you don't think they will vote for the project. So instead of a vote, we are told about a survey, which is the new way to disenfranchise people in town. The facts are that people in Oak Park daring to complain when they don't get to vote on spending our tax dollars are now labelled as being negative.

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