WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
MINUTES OF THE REGULAR MEETING OF THE
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF THE WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
HELD IN THE COUNCIL ROOM OF WILMETTE VILLAGE HALL
MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2012
Written notice of said meeting was given to the Commissioners and the Wilmette Life in accordance with the Wilmette Park District Code, Section 2103, and Section 2.02 of the Open Meetings Act.
PRESENT: President James Brault; Commissioners Gary Benz, James Crowley, Darrell Graham, Michael Murdock, John Olvany, and Shelley Shelly; Secretary/Director Stephen Wilson; Assistant Secretary Judy Ostrem
STAFF: Superintendents Bingham, Bowen, Eppelheimer, and Lambrecht; Communications Manager Donoghue
APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
Commissioner Shelly moved and Commissioner Olvany seconded a motion to approve the minutes of the March 12, 2012 Regular Board Meeting.
By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Benz, Brault, Crowley, Graham, Murdock, Olvany and Shelly; voting No -- None. Absent – None. Motion carried.
VISITORS: Fred Fitzsimmons, 2229 Crestview Lane; John and Sue Bowman, 321 Washington; Brian Cleary, 1602 Cleveland Street; Mary and Charlie Shea, 735 Michigan; Jamie and Jerry Gilson, 777 Michigan; Jean Gram, 228 Maple; Jeanette Whisler, 1211 Chestnut Avenue; Richard Sobel, 1211 Chestnut; Mark Battrell, 1119 Greenleaf; Medwin Texter, 523 Laurel Avenue.
COMMUNICATIONS & CORRESPONDENCE:
- Letter dated March 17, 2012 from William R. Wallin who opposes the fence at the beach and had some thoughts on other issues such as parking, safety and overcrowding at Gillson.
- Letter dated March 15, 2012 from Marla & Rick Murray thanking the Board for not approving the fence and trying to find an alternative for the overlook area.
- Letter dated March 26, 2012 from Robin & Peter Baugher, Julie & Harry Kraemer, and Susan & Tarek Elmasry concerning sand blowing down from Langdon Park
- Email dated April 2, 2012 from Andrew Reese thanking the Sports Department staff for all of their hard work on the basketball and soccer programs and also asked for more information on the plan for the Wilmette Harbor.
- Letter from Richard Janzow dated March 29, 2012 regarding his concerns about the lack of air conditioning at Centennial Tennis.
- Several emails were also received in regard to opposition to the lakefront fencing.
RECOGNITION OF VISITORS:
Richard Sobel, 507 Lake Avenue indicted he wanted to address the steps taken after the decision was made to not install a fence at the overlook and to ask the Park District what the current plans are. He has heard that some provisions were discussed at the Parks & Recreation Committee meeting but there was nothing on the agenda to indicate these would be discussed. In addition, the Board meeting agenda for tonight is fairly generic except for the bids on the fence.
Commissioner Murdock replied that the Parks & Recreation Committee did discuss this topic at length and while he was giving his report tonight was going to ask Superintendent Bingham to provide further details on this topic. Mr. Sobel asked if he could make some generic points about this issue after Superintendent Bingham’s presentation. President Brault replied the Board typically takes comments during the Recognition of Visitors portion of the meeting and there will be a discussion of this subject so there may or may not be a decision made on it tonight.
Mr. Sobel stated he believes one of the key issues here is the need for public discussion before making a decision so he hopes the Board will not make a decision tonight on whatever the proposal is. One of the things that came out of the meeting last month was that the public has a lot to say about this issue and he thinks it is important to address the issue in the same kind of a forum which means that the actual proposals being considered should be listed on the agenda along with other related items followed by public debate and then discussion. Even if it seems like a great idea tonight, procedurally this would be better handled by having a discussion and presentation first followed by potential alternatives and then a vote taken. He believes there needs to be three plan options – a more general, more specific and something in between those two and address them in a public meeting. From what he saw no this proposal is that there was no discussion specifically about the pier and that is what his group is trying to emphasize which is that the real safety issue is the pier and something needs to be done. He understands that the Park District does not have full control of the pier so that might entail having government-to-government communications. It would also make sense to have increased signage with specific rules in order to be clear and fair. The current signs are too generic.
Mr. Sobel understands that the District’s plans are to increase the size of the lifeguard force and have them consistently patrol more regularly up and down the beach. The second idea would also include the regularly walking but with communication devices. The third idea would be the hiring of some sort of professional force. However, he feels the first year should consist of exploring other options. There really is a problem with the pier but not on the beach and to have a full force is very expensive. He is also questioning the need for five chairs on the beach during the first year since people would think lifeguards are there which creates the illusion that people are allowed to use the beach. A scaled-down proposal would be the better way to go and once again this needs additional public discussion. His fourth option is to find out what other people think and to come up with some ideas.
In addition, he and other neighbors are once again asking for a written response to their request that the Park District eliminate the beach photo ID cards or at least make it possible for people to use cards that do not have photos or bar codes on them.
Commissioner Murdock stated that as a general rule the Board does not vote on staffing levels at our facilities. He suspects that the difference in what we might talk about tonight versus last month’s meeting would involve a sizeable expenditure and there is a process we must go through first when making any expenditures. When talking about staffing, that is something which we can modify from month to month as we go through different experiences. He doesn’t have any expectation that we would be voting on the staffing plan since the Board generally does not do that but it is something we will hear about and monitor and will welcome comment over the course of the summer.
Mr. Sobel stated he hopes the Board does not make a decision or vote on anything that moves the process forward without more public discussion and consideration of the options.
Fred Fitzsimmons, 2229 Crestview Lane stated he is an advocate for the installation of the fence. He was not able to attend the March Board meeting but did attend the Parks & Recreation Committee meeting. At that meeting, he addressed the issues as he saw them and wishes he had been at last month’s Board meeting to express his concerns to the entire group of people who were against the fence. He wanted to highlight the issues so that anyone who might not have been at the Committee meeting can say they heard from someone in a public forum what the proponents of the fence had to say and they could then respond in kind. The whole issue of the temporary fence was not just an issue of safety for the swimmer which is first and foremost. However, other major component is control of access which covers five different issues. One issue is beach safety for the swimmers and the second is revenue capture from the south beach/free beach users. Also, how are we going to collect sufficient revenues from these “freeloaders” in order to pay for the added supervision and control of what is now becoming a free beach. The third point is that we know there has been an exodus of paid beach swimmers to the free beach because why pay for the season when you can go there for free. This will decrease our revenue resources which would then put additional strain on Park District budgets and becomes an extra taxpayer expense.
In addition, there is the gang control issue. Those who were not present at the Lakefront Commission meetings did not hear Police Chief Brian King say that due to the increase in social media, whenever the Chicago Police Department puts pressure on the gangs to force them off Chicago beaches social media invites these gang members to come to the “free beach” in Wilmette. It is obvious our police department has done a wonderful job of trying to control things in Wilmette. However, with all this added publicity about the free beach, residents can anticipate there will be an influx of gang infiltration in Wilmette. His also doesn’t know how the food, alcohol and drug consumption will be controlled in an open free beach area. At the Committee meeting, it was stated that food and beverages will be allowed on the free beach which goes against the State Health Department’s regulations. Food on the beach attracts seagulls which poses a serious health risk due to the pollutants being dropped by the gulls resulting in water closings. He also applauds the recommendation of putting extra people on the beach and the opponents to the fence did not address any of these other issues.
Mr. Fitzsimmons hopes that those people who went out with petitions would spend as much time and effort in trying to help the Board and the Park District come up with solutions to all of those other issues that he thinks are very important. He believes that the added expense incurred will be at least $40,000 and his estimate would be higher than that. It is a recurring expense and it would be an increased recurrent expense in future years if a solution isn’t found for all these other issues that he has mentioned in regard to controlling access. Anyone can do a petition survey since it’s all on how it is conducted.
Mr. Fitzsimmons asked how will the Board stem the outflow of paid access patrons from the paid beach to the free beach and how is the Board planning to recover the extra cost incurred to patrol or control the free beach that the freeloaders are now using for free but at a great expense to Wilmette taxpayers. He also asked how the District would control the alcohol and food consumption at the free beach which runs against State Health Care recommendations. He also asked how the District would recover the cost of refuse collection because of the extra containers required on the beach. He feels badly that those issues have been foisted upon the Board by the petitioners and it is unfair to the Park District to feel like they are handcuffed. If the Board is able to survey all of the Park District management people and they would give you an honest answer that the free access open beach is not the answer to our problems and it instead adds additional responsibility and problems for them.
Dr. Erich Gibbs, 112 Hollywood Court stated he believes that we are missing a very big issue which is that we are talking about the “commons” which brings us together as a society. It has been an important part of American life and in fact, life in general for centuries and centuries. If we really are so concerned about freeloaders coming into our commons, then what about the parks and streets and will we be closing down everything. And if we do that, what would we have left as a society. All of us are hiding from freeloaders. However, this should be an open affair and it should not be that difficult to get people to cooperate. He has spent many days on the beach and most people are very pleasant and not throwing garbage, drinking, or using drugs. As a result it should not be that difficult to put a few polite people in chairs or walking up and down the beach politely enforcing the rules. We really need to respect the commons if we want to remain a democratic open society.
Mr. Fitzsimmons responded that none of his comments were made to infringe upon the rights of the common good. However, there is also a principal of fair share for fair services rendered. If the taxpayers are paying for the roads, free parks, etc., they are also paying for the paid beach which has a fee of $35 per season – a minimal cost.
Charles Shea, 735 Michigan Avenue stated he attended both the Board meeting which addressed the issue of the fence as well as the Parks & Recreation Committee meeting but came in late. As he walked away from that meeting he understood that it is now a process we are engaged in beginning this year with two lifeguards at the beach but he then asked if he had misinterpreted what had occurred at the Parks & Recreation Committee meeting.
Director Wilson replied that for the benefit of the full Board and the public, that same presentation will be made again tonight. Mr. Shea asked if the public could comment on that moving forward or was it already a policy that had been adopted. President Brault stated there would not be another opportunity to talk about it tonight but depending on what we conclude the Board may be talking about it again in a month. Mr. Shea asked if the Board sees this as an opportunity to work over several years and if it doesn’t work this year then some improvements would be made in future years. Director Wilson replied that improvements can be made within the first year.
Jeanette Whisler, 1211 Chestnut Avenue stated she wanted to re-emphasize that the petitions they gathered from people were not coerced or manipulated. And in most cases, they hardly had to explain what the issue was about and they were very willing to sign them. There does happen to be another age group within the community that supports the fence and she wondered why they did not come up with a petition of their own.
Jean Graham, 228 Maple Avenue stated one of the reasons she came tonight was because of how many people were still so interested in this issue. She added they will not be “dropping the ball” but will continue to be involved. And for those in the community who still want to volunteer and do things we would really like their help and network.
Richard Sobel, 507 Lake Avenue stated that in the March Board meeting minutes, a correction needs to be made which is to change the name from David Mendelson to David Nelson. In regard to the issue of the photo ID’s he would like to be able to buy a pass for the summer and contribute some money to the beach but because of his opposition to photo ID’s he is not able to support the beach. As a result, he believes creating an option for people who do not want bar codes or photos ID’s might create additional revenue.
President Brault stated that the discussion of the beach is a complicated one that the Board and staff have been looking at over a long period of time and there are no easy answers. This Board and many before it have tried to figure out how to address it. Whatever step is taken will be one that evolves and it may be within this summer or the next couple of seasons. It is a work in progress and we expect it to be so because we know there are competing interests and that whatever is put in place will be one that continues to maximize the suggestions that people have brought before us. He asked that everyone remain patient as we continue with this progress.
APPROVAL OF VOUCHER LIST:
Commissioner Graham moved and Commissioner Benz seconded a motion to approve the Voucher List in the amount of $1,420,929.00, a copy of which is to be attached to and become a permanent part of the minutes of this meeting.
By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Benz, Brault, Crowley, Graham, Murdock, Olvany and Shelly; voting No -- None. Absent – None. Motion carried.
Commissioner Murdock clarified that the $14,000 for the baseball backstop replacement was for the Pomona backstop and that the Thornwood Park backstop would probably appear in the next month’s voucher list.
Financial Planning & Policy Committee – Committee Chair Graham reported the Committee met on March 19. Discussion took place on the budget calendar and capital projects, specifically Centennial Ice and HVAC system as well as the golf course expenditures for the golf course improvement project. Both of those items are significant projects and the Committee talked about the timing of them. It was concluded that Centennial Ice would be done first and the golf course second. The reason that the ice rink project is first is because the system is 35 years old and staff had to make a number of repairs over the last few years since it is at the end of its useful life. We also did not want to take any chances during hockey season.
Also discussed at the meeting was the bid for the review of the Harbor by JJR in the amount of $45,000. There was extended discussion on whether there were other alternatives to using JRR and if there were other bids that would come in. Staff attempted to gather multiple bids but JJR ended up being the only bidder. After discussion, it was decided to recommend that the Board accept bid from JJR.
Commissioner Graham moved and Commissioner Benz seconded a motion to authorize the Executive Director to enter into an agreement with JJR, LLC of Madison, Wisconsin in the amount of $45,000.00 plus reimbursable expenses for an existing conditions study of the Wilmette Harbor North and South Bulkheads and Jetty System as recommended by the Financial Planning and Policy Committee.
Commissioner Graham stated the purpose of the bid is to evaluate the harbor and related repair costs. We have had a wide range of numbers that people had provided to as to what the potential cost of the harbor might be. However, there are no good studies that set out the costs and potential problems of the harbor. We have asked the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) for information but no one there had done an engineering study of the harbor. We have also asked the Wilmette Harbor Association (WHA) and they provided some information but there was still no comprehensive study. The JJR analysis will be looking at both above and below the water and will prioritize the projects that need to be done. This study will provide an estimate of what the costs of those projects will be. The Committee felt it was necessary to get this information to the full Board for debate and discussion in order to decide what future steps, if any, the District would take with respect to the harbor.
By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Benz, Brault, Crowley, Graham, Murdock, Olvany and Shelly; voting No -- None. Absent – None. Motion carried.
Commissioner Brault stated this is a very necessary expenditure in order for the District to conduct our due diligence on whether or not we should or can be involved with the harbor. This study will also set a baseline for future discussions on this topic and the intent is to have the study conducted before the boats go into the water over the next month or two.
Commissioner Olvany clarified that this is not an engineering study but rather it is an estimate of probable costs of any remedial repairs. President Brault added that in addition there will be no design element.
Parks & Recreation Committee – Committee Chair Murdock reported the Committee met on March 19 and Superintendent Bingham will discuss the lakefront staffing option as well as other comments. Other items covered in the meeting in addition to lakefront staffing included a discussion on paddle tennis which had come up in prior meetings. At the meeting Nate Parsons from the Glenview Country Club provided perspectives on the sport and how the District could go about being involved with this. Also reviewed was every park location in the Village wherein a facility could be placed. After discussion, it was decided to eliminate the vast majority of those sites and proceed with investigating the locations of Centennial, Gillson and West Park. It is anticipated that at the next Committee meeting we will discuss those three sites and potential layouts and if the decision is made to proceed with the project, the Committee would go back to the staff to request additional cost estimates which may be followed by going back to the full Board for a vote if a paddle tennis venue is considered in the future.
At the May Committee meeting, discussion will take place on the Thornwood Park Ice Rink. As stated last fall, the Board had hoped to have an outdoor ice facility at Thornwood but the weather did not cooperate. However, it had been initially been mentioned that we would conduct hearings to see what worked or did not work at Thornwood. But we had mentioned we would conduct hearings after the season to see what worked and what didn’t work at the April Committee meeting but since there was no ice, we still want to provide people with an opportunity to tell us what they think about the rink what was proposed and what was actually built and if there were any adjustments to be made.
Four trees were removed from Thornwood Park over the last couple of weeks. Three of them were infected Ash trees and the fourth had been damaged and was a potential safety risk. As a general policy, Park District staff plants more trees than they remove. As part of the work that had been done last year, the entire right field at Thornwood North was sodded and staff is currently in the process of seeding the sandy area that was used for construction. However, there may be some timing and staff issues with that process.
Also at the meeting, discussion occurred on the new soccer rules and the fact that we are keeping players in the same schools together through second grade. However, in third and fourth grades the teams will be made up of a mix of schools. One parent raised some concerns which staff will review but these are the rules that staff is planning to implement for the coming year. Deadlines for registering for soccer have changed so people should be sure they register for soccer before the deadline. Once the deadline is past, it is a possibility their children will not be able to participate.
A group had previously come to the Committee to discuss the possibility of holding a triathlon in Wilmette as early as September 2013. Staff met with the group and will continue to investigate the logistics involved and the number of steps that need to be taken. Commissioner Murdock stated his niece was one of the gymnastics competitors in the recent State meet. The North Shore Theater’s production of Guys and Dolls is in final rehearsals with an opening date of April 13. Brigadoon will be this summer’s production at the Wallace Bowl. The Sailing beach will open on May 12.
Commissioner Murdock then asked Superintendent Bingham to provide information on the new staffing levels at the south beach.
Superintended Bingham stated the Board had requested that staffing at the lakefront be reviewed followed by any recommendations for the upcoming swim season. These were then provided to the Parks & Recreation Committee at its meeting. Staff reported they had looked at several possible alternatives on how to better manage the south beach area since there are problems down there especially on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. In addition, if it is a hot weekend there are hundreds of people on the south beach and the police have said that even with their help it is still too difficult to manage. As a result, staff needs to be more vigilant as to how we are going to encourage people to adhere to our policies. After further discussion, the recommendation made at the Parks & Recreation Committee meeting was to put up five stations along the lake where a staff person, not a lifeguard, would be asked to monitor what is going on. Each station would be placed approximately 250 feet apart and the staff would then monitor what it going on. It is anticipated that early on they will be spending more time out of the chairs than in them but as we educate people of what the policies are and what they can and cannot do. As a result, they will be asked to abide by these new policies on a regular basis.
There will also be someone on the pier which has always been an area of concern and staff will be telling people they are not allowed on the pier. In terms of staffing, they will not be lifeguards but instead will be more experienced and older staff members similar to our parks patrol staff. It is hoped to have the new staff trained by us as well as by the Police Department. Staff met with the police and at that time we asked them if they would be able to assist us with policy enforcement training which would be very helpful. They would also help us to recruit and train similar people for their park patrol.
The staff at these stations will have radios for communication to staff and police and will be able to call police for assistance and, if necessary, escort someone out of the park. They will not have whistles since it could cause confusion with the lifeguards on the paid beach. They will also have radios and bullhorns to communicate with those people in the water. With these stations, it will provide an opportunity to put additional receptacles and recycle bins out there for patrons to use. We can also put signage on the back of all of these chairs such as “no swimming” and possibly “no smoking” signs.
Superintendent Bingham stated that last year we spent approximately $101,000 between the park aides and our own park staff to work the parking gates, monitor the beach area and sailing gate, etc. This year staff is looking to include some cost of living increases going up to $137,000. But it is anticipated that over time we will be able to reduce the number of staff that we have since once word gets out that they are not able to do what they used to do, they will go somewhere else. That’s what happened at Langdon. It is hoped that once we get into the season, we will see how it is going and potentially cut back on staff. As it is now, we are anticipating not using all five stations but reduce that number to three during the week and then back up to five on the weekends.
Staff had been asked by the Board what it would cost to add some evening monitoring and increased security at night when sometimes things happen after the beach is officially closed. There is currently one security person on duty from 7:30 to 10:30 pm every night and to add another person the total cost for that would be approximately $5,500 which was not included in the $137,000 amount.
President Brault stated that in terms of food and beverage, the current ordinances prohibit food on the swimming beach. Superintendent Bingham replied that she does not anticipate it will be much different than what it has been. There is no food allowed on the swimming beach but food is allowed in the other areas of the park and there are currently no plans to change that at this time. Commissioner Murdock pointed out that alcohol is prohibited throughout the entire lakefront and the police do enforce this.
Commissioner Graham indicated that in regard to the statement made by Mr. Fitzsimmons about having the swimming beach near the free beach, he would like to point out that the District is not creating a free beach and that the reason for the increased security is to keep people from swimming in the non-swimming area. This would then be a good reason for those people who truly want to swim to go to the swimming beach and pay a fee or buy a pass. There is also the prospect of increasing revenue through the enforcement mechanism.
Commissioner Olvany asked if our costs of paying police staff for patrolling on the weekends and providing controls for the District was included in the $101,000 from last year. Superintendent Bingham replied that was correct and that last year the District spent a little over $44,000 for just the police aides as well as the on-duty police officers in uniform which totaled $12,000 and that was included in the $101,000 as well. Commissioner Olvany asked in the $137,000 projected amount will the District be maintaining the same level of police presence or does staff anticipate reducing that presence as a result of the increased level of District employees. Superintendent Bingham replied that staff has included that number but we are not decreasing the number of park aides since we are repurposing them into different roles. In terms of increased uniformed officers we are initially planning on using them just as much but hope to reduce that as needed as the summer goes on and which we keep as minimal as possible. Commissioner Olvany asked if we proceed with the plan and if it is successful in terms of monitoring the situation, does staff anticipate that our costs for the $40,000 police presence will decline over the course of the summer. Superintendent Bingham reiterated that the $44,000 represented the police aides, not the uniformed officers, and that the $12,000 is for the uniformed officers which could also possibly be reduced. She added that once people see a police or staff presence, it will discourage them from violating our policies although we may still have to wait and see how everything goes this summer. The staff sitting in the chairs will be able to write tickets on weekdays but the uniform offices will write them on the weekends.
Commissioner Shelley asked what would happen if a family who was located on the south beach was asked to stop swimming so they decide to move to the paid beach. Realistically they could just walk down the sand all the way to Gillson. She asked would staff then radio someone to let them know they were coming and then charge them. Superintendent Bingham stated Holly Specht and she have discussed the possibility of placing a pay station at that south gate but we still need to look at the logistics involved. Currently, a staff person is present to check for passes on the waterfront. If one of these park patrols writes a ticket, the fine depends on the violation. Commissioner Olvany asked what does staff think about putting the cost of the ticket on the sign and Commissioner Shelly asked if staff had thought about also having a sign that explains the violations.
Superintendent Bingham stated we do need to educate the public on what our policies are and staff is talking about ways to do so with flyers or additional signage. Signage is a good idea but we would need to keep the number of words down to a minimum. Staff is also talking with the police about how to better educate the community and the beachgoers on our policies. Commissioner Murdock stated we still have time so maybe more information can be brought to eh next Parks & Recreation Committee meeting.
President Brault stated this plan seems to be a very focused on the safety of people and protecting them from the water, particularly if lifeguards aren’t present. It also seems a very prudent step to take which can be changed or modified unlike the fence option which did not have that flexibility. This is a very good step in the direction we want to take based on the input we have received on how to address this issue. Superintendent Bingham stated we will learn from the process and then evaluate it.
Commissioner Shelly asked if the park aides were trained in CPR, etc. since if you put someone in a chair there is an expectation of safety. Superintendent Bingham replied that these chairs are lifeguard chairs in that they are much shorter and will not be that high off the ground. She will also follow up with Holly as to the staff and what kind of safety training they go through. Both the park staff and the park aides will receive basic first aid and CPR training. However, they will not have lifeguard rescue training but will have the ability to communicate with the lifeguards at the paid beach.
Commissioner Olvany asked where the line was drawn between wading and swimming. Superintendent Bingham replied that staff had a lengthy discussion about this issue at the police department and the current answer is we do not yet know. If people want to splash themselves to get the sand off, that’s something which would be allowed. But there is a point where you are definitely going into the water to swim. Staff will continue to work with the police to determine what the policy should be.
Jerry Gilson, 777 Wilmette Avenue approached the dais to state that when he saw the tennis locker room renovation amount, he was astonished. He has been a member since the facility opened around 1970 and has played there every winter. He is also in a summer group which has approximately 30 players and no one in his group ever uses the locker room. They have been driving their cars to the facility for many years and mainly play on Saturday or Sunday mornings. Everyone gets along with Barb Jenkins and Darrell Smith but no one goes in the locker rooms. His personal experience is that this dollar amount has no bearing on the people that I play tennis with at Centennial.
Golf Operations – Committee Chair Brault reported the Committee met on May 10 and there were two primary topics of discussion. The first topic was the new online registration system which is significantly simpler to manage than the previous one and it is now up and running. Feedback so far has been generally very good and it will also integrate with our accounting system better that in the past and will continue to evolve over the next year or so. Secondly we talked about the golf master plan and that the preliminary design work is continuing with Martin Design. We expect by the end of this year we will have our plans in a sufficient state to apply for the permitting from the Village of Wilmette, the Army Corp of Engineers, and the MWRD. It is hoped that we will have that by the end of this year. In the meantime, the course is open for play which is up substantially year-to-date compared to last year because of the terrific weather. The course opened about two weeks earlier than last year and the driving range is open, the nets are up and the course has a brand new ball machine which is much easier to operate.
Centennial Operations – Commissioner Benz reported the Committee met earlier this evening and it was reported the summer class registration for the tennis program begins the first of May. Rehearsals for the Spring Ice Show called Around the World in 80 minutes begin on April. At the pools, the summer job interviews and preventative maintenance work is ongoing. The pool is scheduled to open on Saturday, May 26 weather permitting. Discussion took place on the renovation of the tennis locker rooms which have been discussed for the last several years. They have not been renovated since the Centennial facility opened. The plumbing is approaching a non-functioning status and since the ADA requirements for access are coming due, it is time to do the renovation. Seven bids were created by staff through a professional program and seven bids were returned and if it is awarded this evening, it is anticipated construction would begin in mid-May. Staff hopes to have that completed before the fall indoor season starts.
Commissioner Benz moved and Commissioner Crowley seconded a motion to approve the bid of Chicagoland Building Contractors of Addison, IL in the amount of $359,000.00 to demolish the existing Centennial Tennis locker rooms and all related plumbing, electrical, ceilings and masonry and build new masonry partitions, plumbing, toilet/shower partitions and lockers, electrical, HVAC and tile and carpeting as recommended by the Centennial Operations Committee.
Commissioner Murdock indicated he shares the concerns that Mr. Gilson had about this project and it will be an extremely difficult vote for him. He strongly supports the need to maintain our existing facilities and it is critical that over time we invest in our facilities so that we maintain the standards. However, it is clear this facility has been neglected and the locker rooms are very old and in poor condition. They do need to be addressed and this project has been on our list for a number of years. But he had the same reaction as Mr. Gilson did and I think that with the process we have gone through this year it is too much money to spend right now sine he has a number of questions that haven’t been addressed. He realizes that these questions should have been asked earlier and he is accountable for that. He thinks the real issue for him in this process is that when we went through our budgeting process last year, as well as previous years, the number used was always $250,000. He thought the $250,000 was a significant expenditure but after this item had been on our capital planning budget for a number of years, he became comfortable with an expenditure somewhere in that neighborhood. Over the course of this winter and spring, the number increased and it didn’t go through what I would consider the District’s normal process. He is not saying that something was mishandled or not discussed but rather the bid was presented to the Board a bit differently.
Commissioner Murdock pointed out that this bid was also discussed at the Financial Planning Committee and he should have been more proactive in asking questions. He added that the facility is in very poor condition and has not been updated in an number of years and it clearly needed to be addressed this season or next but he is concerned about the scope of the project but would also like to commend the Centennial Committee for revising their recommendation today. But now we are talking about some upgraded finishes for this project which will be superior to what we have at the Community Recreation Center (CRC) at a cost of $20,000 but the Centennial Committee recommended reducing those costs and he supports that since he had some concerns that they would have been superior to the CRC locker rooms. He also has concerns about the size of the locker rooms tennis facility which would be the same size or even larger than what we have at the CRC and he estimates that the usage of the tennis locker rooms is probably 10% of what the CRC’s usage is. He would have preferred to consider some other alternatives such as trying to repair the locker room and maybe have had fewer fixtures which he knows staff investigated with the Village staff on that. Ultimately he would have really liked to have seen us further explore the possibility of putting both locker rooms on one level although after looking at the plans it didn’t look like that would have been possible. However, with this kind of expenditure it is something we should have looked at and he’s accountable for not suggesting this earlier. As a result, he is not going to be able to support the expenditure of $359,000 at this time.
Commissioner Olvany stated that as a member of the Financial Planning Committee would like Superintendent Lambrecht to explain some of the issues that Commissioner Murdock has brought up such as when did the amount go from $250,000 to $359,000. Superintendent Lambrecht stated that the $250,000 amount had been carried in the budget for capital projects for about 10 years. Staff began the development of the plans last year but they were not able to get the plans for the project over summer. Staff continued to work on them into the fall and in the process of doing that, the new ADA regulations went into effect and staff discovered they needed to make the locker rooms ADA accessible. Staff also met with tennis staff to get their ideas of what their needs are. The facility opened in 1972 and not only are adults using the facility now but there are also over 80 campers in the summer on a daily basis so the number of patrons in the locker rooms vary at any given time. They number of showers in the men’s locker room has been lowered from 12 to 5 stalls. We can also change out the finishes in the facility in an effort to reduce costs but attempting to rework the plumbing will be the biggest cost of this project since the galvanized pipe is entirely corroded. There is also a 400-gallon storage tank that is half full of rust. As a result, the plumbing will be the largest expense and there is no easy way to rework the plumbing in its current format. However, because that work would still not make it accessible, we needed to change the layouts of the space which increased the costs.
President Brault stated that when reviewing the costs, it was difficult at first to understand the cost of the project but as he toured the space and looked at the design he noticed that the current space is awkward and is not a good fit. However, there is nowhere else to put it and combined with making the space ADA-accessible it compounds the cost of it. One of the things staff looked at was to upgrade just the existing components of the showers, lockers, etc. and do that but without gutting the space, the internal plumbing would cost more. So there is some benefit to staring over so that we have a product that has not been squeezed into one space and then attempt to fix the space without looking at the overall design. The cost is expensive but based on what staff has done to date in looking at how this space exists he doesn’t think there is a better way to do it. He dislikes spending money when we don’t get much benefit from this but in this case there is not a good solution or a less costly solution. If we were to combine the uses on one level, he thinks I we would end up with substantially improved locker rooms for both men and women and he is not sure there is much benefit of having the other space versus the trade-off of having the two locker rooms being forced into one space. He sees this as choosing the best of the alternatives and it is expensive, it will ultimately not be a useable space but because the ADA requirements mandate that we upgrade to make it accessible and in the process the underlying plumbing is aged and needs to be replaced so he is in favor of it.
Commissioner Shelly stated she agrees with the comments from Mr. Gilson that the cost did seem very high. When looking into the issue more she saw there were a lot of incremental charges due to the ADA compliance factor and there is no way around it. She thinks if staff could lower some of those nominal costs for some of the fixtures that would be more to the level of the CRC’s locker rooms that would be fine since she also plays tennis at Centennial and feels that usage is low. She also understands that the hockey players use the men’s locker room and it gets quite a bit of usage. With nicer locker rooms maybe some of the women’s tennis teams would feel better about using these facilities. She doesn’t like the way the incremental increase came about but we learned from it and moving forward we should cap it off prior to approving the budget. In summary, because most of the cost of the locker rooms is tied to ADA, she will also support the bid recommendation.
President Brault asked if the $359,000 was inclusive of the finish as originally proposed and Superintendent Lambrecht replied yes it was. Director Wilson added that we have already spent approximately $30,000 on the architectural plans for this project so to go back and reinvent something it would mean that the money would not be recovered so it is best to move forward and reduce some of the fixtures as best we can.
By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Benz, Brault, Crowley, Graham, Olvany and Shelly; voting No – Commissioner Murdock. Absent – None. Motion carried.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT:
Director Wilson reported he had been approached by the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy in regard to a property on Isabella which has recently received some local media coverage. This small cottage was built by Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Schindler. The Conservancy asked us if the District would be interested in having this cottage and all we would have to do is move it to a different location in Wilmette and preserve. He has inform the Conservancy that he would ask the Park Board but there is a somewhat tight timeframe since the developer who purchased the property is set to close at the end of this month.
President Brault asked that whether or the Board feels this is an appropriate action to take. Commissioner Graham stated that if we find a location as well as a use for the house and if we are not overly encumbered by restrictions because of its historical status, might be able to make use of it and he thinks we should explore this in terms of what the cost would be. However, it is not functional either because of the small size or that we would be restricted historical regulations then he doesn’t think we should explore this further.
Director Wilson stated his understanding as far as what we could or could not do with the structure is that there are not actually any legal restrictions at this point but obviously the goal would be to conserve this piece of architecture as best as we can. He doesn’t think that to completely remodel and change the structure is the goal of the Conservancy. There are some additions built on to the structure that were not original and they would ask us to return it to its original state. However, if it was necessary to preserve that space for the District then those additions could be made. Commissioner Graham added that if we were going to make any use of it we would prefer to preserve its charm. His point is he would want to make sure we are not restricted on how we use it once we have it. If we were to restore it and could make use of it, then it might be something worthwhile. President Brault stated that to the extent we accept the house we should accept title to it as well. Director Wilson stated that currently the Conservancy has estimated it would cost $15,000-$20,000 to move it out of its current location and relocate somewhere else within the Village. Commissioner Olvany asked if we know if the architectural significance of the house is exclusive to the exterior or the interior and if we would have to maintain both of them. Director Wilson stated there are some features that are designed-based that they would like us to preserve but it is mainly the exterior although we would be able to redo the interior as needed. Commissioner Olvany stated that when he heard about the house today he immediately tried to think of where and how we could use, maybe even s a paddle hut. However, he could not come up with any ideas about where to put it or what to use it for although it is an interesting idea to pursue. The timeline is difficult but it would be a shame if we are spending $300,000 for renovating a locker room and now we are considering a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Director Wilson clarified that it is actually a Schindler-designed house and is the only one located in the State of Illinois. He then suggested that this topic be discussed at the next Parks & Recreation Committee meeting and all agreed.
Director Wilson reported that Superintendent Bowen, Golf Course Manager Mike Matchen, President Brault and Vice President Graham met with the representatives from the City of Evanston to discuss the Evanston-Wilmette Golf Association formerly known as the Peter Jans Golf Course and the Frank Govern Memorial Golf Course. The course has had problems with paying their water bills to both the Park District and the City of Evanston and they have had issues with internal controls, cash handling, and financial record keeping. At one point last golf season, Evanston contacted the Association and indicated they needed to become current on their past due bills or their water would be shut off. The Association then met with Evanston to ask the forgiveness for the rest of the season and stated they would come back with a plan on moving forward to operate more effectively. At that meeting, the Association asked Evanston to forgive the money due for the water bills as well as provide free water moving forward. Their basis for that request was that it would cost Evanston more to maintain that amount of property than it would to give them the water. Evanston asked what our take was on that and our response was that we have not been asked to do anything. However, we do have outstanding bills and would like to be reimbursed for the costs we have expended. Subsequent to that, the President of Association has submitted to me the same request which was actually worded for the Evanston but they asked us to consider forging the debt and provide free water moving forward. Director Wilson indicated to the staff and elected officials at Evanston that the District was not inclined to subsidize the water operations but everything was still up for discussion. At this point, there has been a request in regard to this matter that should probably be referred to the Financial Planning & Policy Committee.
Commissioner Graham stated this course is not owned or controlled by the Park District. It is on MWRD land and a portion of the land is located in Wilmette and leased to the Park District which we then sub-lease to the group that operates the golf course. As a result, it is independent from us but he is not inclined to forgive the water bill itself which we will discuss at the next Financial Planning Committee meeting.
President Brault thought that from the discussion held with the City of Evanston the biggest issue is whether or not the current management at the golf course is a viable organization. Regardless of whether the past or future water bills are waived, the question is whether or not the organization has the ability to oversee the course and since they have had almost all the staff turnover from last year to this year. They have also suspended their by-laws at the moment so they are in the process of writing new by-laws which will hopefully help them to operate better than they have in the past. He believes the underlying question on whether they will be able to operate is an open one and thinks it is something that should be considered at the Financial Planning Committee as far as its future operation is concerned. The Committee would then come back to the Board with a recommendation.
Director Wilson invited the Board to join him on Saturday, April 27 for the NSSRA Shining Stars Banquet where they honor many of their participants with awards and distinctions. There will be dinner and dancing so if any of the Board members are interested in attending, please let him know.
Under New Business, there are several other bid items to be considered for approval tonight as well although they had not yet been discussed at the committee level. The bid approval for Camp and Staff T-shirts resulted in numbers very similar to last year. There is also the bid approval for the lakefront fencing and the motion is written to indicate a move to reject all bids which resulted from the discussion at the March Board meeting. Also, there is a bid recommendation for the lakefront concessions area. The previous concessionaire was in place over the last three summers at the beach house and Lakeview Center. This year the District went out to bid and received three bids. After review, one of the bids which had been the most profitable to the Park District was chosen and they will be bringing in an organic food element to the lakefront which is something staff is excited about.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS: None
Commissioner Murdock moved and Commissioner Benz seconded a motion to approve the bids of Score, American Soccer, Wilmington, CA in the amount of $29,217.60; Sunburst, Glendale Heights, IL in the amount of $26,434.79 and of Promotions, Elk Grove Village, IL in the amount of $1,135.00 to supply staff and camp T-shirts and soccer uniforms.
Commissioner Olvany moved and Commissioner Murdock seconded a motion to reject all bids received to install a new security fence at the lakefront on the overlook area.
Commissioner Murdock moved and Commissioner Shelly seconded a motion to approve the bid of Organic Life LLC Smart Food Service, Chicago, IL, in the amount of $13,750.00 to provide food service for the Gillson Beach House and Lakeview Grill.
Commissioner Murdock stated that comments had been received over the years about the food service at Gillson and several years ago we outsourced all of our food service operations which has generally been perceived as successful. Our patrons also seem happy with the Ice and Pool vending arrangements. However, some comments had previously been received that there were no children’s menus so he asked if there would be an opportunity to discuss this with the new vendor and if we would have any oversight on what they are able to do.
Director Wilson replied there is not any language in the agreement regarding the District’s right of refusal of any of their menu items or control of it but from meetings Superintendent Bingham has had with them, it appears they will make themselves available for input and will want to do what the customers ask for. He also pointed out that the prices are also more in line with what people expect at the lakefront and we believe that they will want to work with us. Commissioner Murdock concluded he looks forward to a more a more successful operation.
Commissioner Benz moved and Commissioner Crowley seconded a motion to adjourn to Closed Session for discussion of the appointment, employment, compensation, discipline ,performance or dismissal of a specific employee(s) of the District pre Section 2(c)(1) of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
The meeting adjourned to Closed Session at 9:22 pm.
The Regular Board meeting was reconvened 10:23 pm.
Commissioner Benz moved and Commissioner Graham seconded a motion to approve the minutes of the Closed Session minutes of February 13, 2012 as amended.
There being no further business to conduct, the meeting was adjourned at 10:20 pm.
MINUTES APPROVED MAY 14, 2012.