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, JULY 9, 2012
7:30 P.M.
______________________________________________________________________ 

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.

President Brault called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.

President Brault welcomed those in attendance to the regularly scheduled meeting of the Wilmette Board of Park Commissioners. He expressed his and the Park Board’s thanks to staff for how well the July 3rd and 4th celebration was handled this year. There were over 15,000 participants who enjoyed all of the activities. To him this is the signature event of the Park District and staff did a fantastic job. He also thanked the Village of Wilmette’s Police, Fire and Public Works Departments for working together to safely get the people out of the park.

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

ABSENT: None

STAFF: Superintendents Bingham, Bowen, Eppelheimer, and Lambrecht; Communications Manager Donoghue

VISITORS:  Mark Weyermuller, 208 Lawndale; Kathy Routliffe, Wilmette Life

APPROVAL OF MINUTES:

Commissioner Murdock moved and Commissioner Graham seconded a motion to approve the minutes of the June 11, 2012 Regular Meeting of the Retiring Board.

By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Benz, Brault, Crowley, Graham, Murdock, Olvany, and Shelly; voting No -- None. Absent – None; Motion carried.

Commissioner Benz moved and Commissioner Shelly seconded a motion to approve the revised minutes of the June 18, 2012 Public Hearing 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 Crowley moved and Commissioner Murdock seconded a motion to approve the minutes of the June 25, 2012 Public Hearing Meeting.

By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Benz, Brault, Crowley, Graham, Murdock, Olvany and Shelly; voting No -- None. Absent – None; Motion carried.

COMMUNICATIONS & CORRESPONDENCE

President Brault stated no correspondence had been received.

RECOGNITION OF VISITORS:

Mark Weyermuller, 208 Lawndale stated he applauds the Park District for the excellent job done at the Independence Day celebration as well as all for the work done on the paddle tennis proposal. He attended the two public hearings on the issue and he does support paddle tennis as well as all sports in Wilmette although his position continues to evolve. He has also conducted his own surveys and found it interesting that some people didn’t even know about the sport. However, he does have issues on whether paddle tennis is actually needed and whether that location is the right one. However, his main issue is that as a taxpayer is it the right time to spend money on this project during these slow economic times. The cost of another public building in Wilmette along with the electrical, maintenance, and possible labor costs would be a large expense. In reviewing some paddle articles online, he noticed that revenues for the golf course were somewhat off so do we really need to have another venture that could possibly lose money. Some people have commented they are sure that money will be made from paddle tennis but he questions that viewpoint since it is primarily a winter sport which runs from November to March. It is estimated it would cost $1 to $2 million to build this facility plus maintenance which is a lot of money. His main issue deals with the taxes. Currently on his tax bill there are 16 different tax levies. In addition, his home value is down 30% which is why he is worried about taxes going up. He hopes the Board will conduct their due diligence and consider holding off on this project, keep the money in the bank, and possibly build the facility in a couple of years from now, or not at all.

APPROVAL OF VOUCHER LIST:

Commissioner Olvany moved and Commissioner Murdock a motion to approve the Voucher List in the amount of $1,852,575.54, 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. 

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT:

Director Wilson reported that as President Brault stated earlier, the July 3rd and 4th festivities went very well although it was extremely hot and humid. The Park District and all of the Village’s departments did a great job. The crowd was somewhat smaller this year which could be due to it being a work night instead of a weekend. It was estimated there were close to 15,000 people in attendance. As President Brault pointed out, thanks go to the Fire, Police, Public Works and also the Pace Bus service who transported a lot of people to and from the park. The Village also sponsored the Jessie White Tumblers which is always a crowd-pleaser.

The Recreation Department has two new staff members. Julie Mantice is now the new Fitness Assistant Manager. Julie had worked part-time at the District as a Camp Director and Group Fitness Instructor and is looking forward to her new responsibilities. In addition, Nicole Jacobson has been hired as our new General Recreation Supervisor. Nicole comes to us from the Waukegan Park District and has about six years of park district experience. Nicole arrived at the busiest time of year for her area. We are also through the mid-way point of our camp season with four more weeks to go. After that there will be three weeks of extension camps before school begins.

The temperatures outside have been very hot and as a result, the lakefront has been very busy. New operational controls that had been established at the southern portion of the beach still seem to be working effectively. The sailing beach also “tweaked” some admission procedures by moving our staff around. Superintendent Bingham and Lakefront Manager Holly Specht have been considering a couple of additional changes in order to accommodate our increased demand related to kayaks and stand-up paddle boards as well as rerouting traffic because of the demand for trail-in permits which has doubled. Staff will continue to remind people of the rules, that they have the proper safety equipment, and that they follow all the rules.

In the Parks & Planning Department, the rooftop unit over the fitness center was replaced. The renovation of the tennis locker room is on track and should be completed by mid-August. The hot weather this summer has kept the grass from growing so staff has been out trimming trees and doing other work as needed.

At the facilities, outdoor tennis has been very busy with the adult and junior programs. There are currently 635 enrollees and the bulk of them are children. At the ice facility staff is getting ready for the Mid-Summer Classic competition which has 137 skaters competing for 231 spots. This is the largest enrollment experienced in the first four years of this event so staff is very excited and hopes it continues to grow.

The weather so far this season has been hot and the pool has been very busy. An audit was conducted by an outside agency who reviewed our operations for both the lifeguards and the facilities and we received the highest rating of five stars. We are very proud of and congratulations go to Superintendent Bowen and his staff.

Golf has also been very busy due to the lack of rain and despite the hot temperatures there have been about 4,500 more rounds as compared to this time last year. Pro shop and driving range sales are also higher. This year the District turned over the Al McLean Junior event to the Illinois Junior Golf Association (IJGA). When the District ran this event, there were about 55 participants but this year IJGA ran the event with 153 participants which was a win-win situation for both the District and the young golfers.

Paddle Tennis is listed on tonight’s agenda under Old Business as a discussion item.  The Park Board held two public hearings in June with about 25 people in attendance for both nights. There was also a lot of information included in the Board packet for review and discussion tonight. Under New Business there is an action item about the ComEd lease which is for the property running along the western border along West Park where we now have a fenced-in dog run area. The new lease will allow us to put in a fence to create a dog park. However, we failed to get the actual lease into the packet for your review so that action will be deferred until a future Board meeting.

Commissioner Crowley asked if the people selling glow sticks on July 3rd purchase permits from us. Director Wilson replied most of those sellers are independent from the District and do purchase a permit from us. However, every year there are people who do not purchase a permit but attempt to sell the same kind of merchandise. When this happens, these unpermitted vendors are escorted from the park.

COMMITTEE REPORTS:

Financial Planning & Policy Committee – Committee Chair Olvany reported the Financial Planning & Policy Committee did not meet in June.

Parks & Recreation Committee – Committee Chair Murdock reported the Committee met on June 18 and covered several topics including a request that caregivers be considered family members when purchasing pool and beach passes. The current policy allows one pass per household for caregivers and although there was a request for more, the Committee elected to not change the policy. Camp programs this year have been divided into two four-week sessions instead of one eight-week session. The first session has been completed and the second session has just begun. This new format has worked out exceptionally well so far. Fall soccer preparations are underway and the early-bird registration deadline is July 10. The final deadline to register is July 24 which is a change from last year. Commissioner Murdock stated his children are enrolled in Discovery Camp and they have been exploring bugs and were introduced to an iguana which was a great opportunity.

Commissioner Murdock stated the latest Park District brochure is out and he reminded everyone that starting this weekend and for the next two weeks the Broadway show Brigadoon will be playing at the Wallace Bowl. There are also several activities to be held in the Bowl this summer as well as the Sunday afternoon concerts at Mallinckrodt. The next concert at Mallinckrodt will be held on July 22 featuring the Wilmette Community Band and he encouraged everyone to come out and enjoy these venues.

Golf Operations – Committee Chair Crowley reported the Committee met on Saturday, June 9, and covered a host of topics. The course is currently up by 5,000 rounds and approximately $107,000 more dollars than for the same time last year. Sadly, there are approximately 60 ash trees in and around the course that need to come down. The master plan is moving along and so far there have been no roadblocks with any of the agencies and is hoped by September or October there could be some recommendations coming out of committee.

Centennial Operations – Committee Chair Graham reported that because of the hot weather there has been a dramatic increase in the use of the pool with usage being up 68% this year compared to the same time period last year. One of the topics discussed at the meeting was the overcrowding at the pool and staff will be following up and reviewing the proposals. Commissioner Olvany asked what the numbers looked like at the pool. Commissioner Graham responded the Committee looked at a general number over a period of time which indicated that attendance was up from 37,000 last year to 65,000 this year which is approximately an increase of 68%.

OLD BUSINESS:

President Brault stated that the Board and staff have been studying paddle tennis since 2009. In 2010 we conducted a survey of everyone who was registered with the District and received approximately 800 responses to that initial survey which was a pretty good response overall. Since then the Board has talked about a variety of potential locations for paddle tennis and over the course of the last six or seven months the Parks & Recreation Committee has reviewed every single park in the District and agreed to recommend West Park as the potential location for a facility. In June, two public hearings were held – one at the CRC followed by another hearing at the Village Hall. People were invited to attend and express their opinions and the Board received a great deal of input from both staff and the public. He believes that at this point it is time for the Board to decide what to do.

Commissioner Shelly moved and Commissioner Crowley seconded a motion to approve the construction of a paddle tennis facility at West Park and to direct staff to assemble and distribute Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for the design of a paddle tennis facility consisting of four courts and a warming hut, with the ability to potentially add two more courts if the demand exists at some point in the future.

Commissioner Benz stated the printed motion on the Action List was slightly different than the actual motion Commissioner Shelly just read. The printed motion asks to have staff cost out the proposal and the motion that Commissioner Shelly read was to move that the District go ahead with the project. President Brault stated that it was a slightly different motion. He added that at this point in the meeting the Board can debate this motion or propose an amendment to the motion moved by Commissioner Shelly.

President Olvany commented that like Mr. Weyermuller, he is concerned about higher taxes and that the assessed valuation on his home is also going down which concerns him. He conducted an analysis of his own specific situation and noticed that his taxes for the Wilmette Park District were up 7.2% relative to all of the other representative areas such as School District 39 which was up 5%, the Village of Wilmette up 7%, and New Trier up 5.3%. Cook County was actually down on a year-to-year basis. He is now more concerned about the perception that our taxes are not going up but in fact there is a bit of discrepancy in the documents which he brought to the meeting tonight. But in the November Financial Planning Committee meeting we were provided with a history of our tax levy going back to 1988 which indicated the levy for the Park District goes up every single year. Over the last ten years of tax levies, taxes have gone up every year with the exception of one year and that is a concern of his especially when we are considering new projects such as a paddle tennis facility.

Secondly, he attended one of the two public hearings and his understanding was that there were approximately 20 people at the first hearing and about five people at the second hearing. At the Board meeting when there was discussion about the lakefront, the Council Chambers needed to be opened up in the back because there were so many people in attendance. The community’s interest in this particular project is underwhelming from his perspective and he doesn’t think we should be moving forward and utilize public dollars when the project doesn’t have a lot of underlying support from the community. In addition, he spent time with some of the analyses that President Brault referred to and it is his understanding that the Parks & Recreation Committee asked staff to put together a break-even analysis of this proposed facility project. That breakeven analysis indicated approximately 300 active users would be necessary in order to generate the revenue that this projection indicates and he simply wanted to look at the profitability of this project. In addition, the Board should review the longer-term financial impact to the District of any variation from the breakeven analysis.

Commissioner Olvany stated that when he manipulated some of the numbers on the spreadsheet, what he came up with was somewhat alarming. If we reduce the revenues across the board by about 15% which he doesn’t think is an unreasonable projection, this project on an all-in cost basis would result in a negative $100,000 project for the District. He personally doesn’t think that although we spent a lot of time on this proposed project, we don’t have a scientific or even reasonable plan other than a thought process on how popular this facility would be. Most of the information he has heard and seen has been based on potentially getting players from other surrounding communities or clubs and he is not confident that we would be able to pinpoint what that number is. When he thinks about the financial impact to the District, it concerns him tremendously.

Commissioner Olvany stated the other issue he has is that he doesn’t know if this is the right time to be undergoing a project of this nature since he thinks this Board has larger issues that should be dealt with first. For example, he thinks the beach house is a much more dramatic problem that we should be dealing with instead of spending $1.2 to $2 million constructing a new facility even though we don’t have a grasp on the number of potential users nor the potential financial impact of this facility. We are currently budgeting two substantial capital projects of existing facilities – the ice rink and the golf course. It is his feeling overall that this project, although maybe popular, is probably something that could be pursued at some other point in time. However, if there turns out to be a groundswell of interest from the private sector who would raise the money to pay for the costs of building this facility, then he would reconsider this proposal. However, he doesn’t necessarily want to use the District’s cash reserves or taxing authority in order to build this facility for a project that already has a number of competing facilities in the same area.

Commissioner Graham stated he agrees with much of what Commissioner Olvany stated in that if we were assured at this point in time that the building of the courts would generate sufficient revenue to cover costs, overhead and the financing of the facility then he would be more interested in doing this project. It is the role of the Board and staff to provide facilities to the residents of Wilmette that they otherwise might not have access to. After looking at the data however, he is not persuaded that we’ll be able to attract the number of users we need to make it a self-sustaining and profitable operation which generates the revenue necessary to cover the costs and financing. The bigger problem for him is that although paddle tennis may be a good idea at some point in the future, he also thinks that since there are three other major projects in line we need to take care of those projects first. One is the ice rink project which consists of putting in new piping since the current rink is 38 years old and needs to be updated which is a significant budgeted item.

The second project is the golf course and several years have been spent working on the master plan and now there is a reasonable budget and a plan in place to move forward. Thirdly, the lakefront is still an open issue and we are moving toward doing something and this is where we should place our focus. While paddle tennis might be a potentially profitable operation in the future and a positive project for the District, he doesn’t think this is the right time to do the project in light of the economy and the other projects we have in lined up.

Commissioner Benz stated that since hearing the other points of view this evening and trying to recover from the shock of the original motion being changed from a costing-out of the project to actually approving construction of a paddle facility, he cannot understand why any of his fellow commissioners would believe that building an entirely new facility should move in line ahead of the lakefront plan because of the costs that would be involved in rehabbing and repairing the lakefront. He would be unwilling to vote for jumping ahead and building a new facility before he knew what it would cost as well as what the cost will be for the lakefront project would cost. This particular motion is way too premature and he would not be able to support it.

Commissioner Murdock agreed he would be more comfortable with the original motion as well which was to authorize staff to assemble and distribute Request for Proposals (RFP) for the design of a paddle tennis facility. However, he does like the idea of providing an outdoor activity for our residents during the winter months when outdoor options are limited. He believes that this enterprise would generate significantly larger operating surpluses and significantly lower participation levels than the numbers referenced by Commissioner Olvany.

Commissioner Olvany stated that what he was talking about was an all-in cost and what Commissioner Murdock was referring to was an operating cost. The numbers Commissioner Olvany quoted included the cost of financing the project, the cost of capital, and an overhead charge.

President Brault stated the Board and Committees have been looking at this proposed project for the past several years. From the original survey, there were about 550 respondents who indicated they would support the construction of a facility in Wilmette. Without the benefit of knowing what the costs would have been at that time, the Board asked a follow-up question which asked if people would pay $400 to play at a paddle facility and a total of 325 people said they would pay that amount. One of the reasons we looked at the breakeven analysis was to get a sense of what it would take in terms of participation to cover our operating costs and our numbers suggested that it would take 200 residents and about 40 non-residents to play and at the $400 fee for residents and the $500 fee for non-residents which are both about $100 less than what is being charged currently at Winnetka.

President Brault stated that when contemplating a new facility, it is always a matter of balancing priorities and we do have some projects that are longer term like the lakefront which will still take a lot of time to determine the scope, scale and cost. There are also other “big picture” projects that we have been working on but he believes the Board has a good idea of what the costs would be. In summary, he would support the building of a paddle tennis facility.

Commissioner Olvany stated he is curious about the 200 residents and the 40 non-residents that President Brault mentioned. President Brault replied that he was looking at the platform tennis operations line item based on the “Association Model” which in turn was based on participation levels that were about the same and ranged from 197 in the first scenario to 212 in the second scenario. Altogether we were looking at a range of 236 to 255 users. Those participation levels are represented by the $110,000 in revenue which is almost 30% less than what is being generated at Winnetka. As a result, that number is at a lower price point with significantly less usage and the District would still be able to breakeven.

President Brault stated the difference between the association model and the Operational Model is in the way that each model is managed. An association model is one that is formed and then the District would delegate a fair amount of responsibility for it to the association. Revenue would be generated from the association as opposed to the District managing it directly. Commissioner Olvany stated that wouldn’t happen on day one since we do not have a facility. President Brault responded that we don’t have an association yet but that doesn’t mean we can’t create one. We could adopt the model and make that a part of how we decide to operate. Commissioner Olvany asked where the capital would come from in order to pay for the facility in the first place. He also thinks that what is being proposed is that we would create the facility and if we adopted the association model then we would have the association partner with us to run the operation.

Commissioner Benz asked if that was just wishful thinking since his impression of the association model was that the association was formed first and then they build the facility. In addition, the Winnetka Park District donated the land but basically the whole capital component fell within the private association entity.

Commissioner Murdock stated he knows that it’s easy to get wrapped up in the numbers but the fact of the matter is that in any of these cases when making forecasts, you are essentially making assumptions. In all three of these models that had been considered and unfortunately which the TV viewers are not able to see, the Board considered three different scenarios based upon what Hinsdale and Winnetka have done as well as a third option which was a membership model. In all three of these scenarios we are showing that each of them has the same debt service and capital construction costs. Also, in any of these scenarios we’re talking about a figure of $78,786 which would go to the District. He doesn’t think anyone on the Board is contemplating going out and borrowing the funds and when taking a look at the opportunity cost of that money, right now it’s a small number. That might not be necessarily the case in year two, three or five but he thinks this is a conservative projection by way of plugging into such a large capital contribution number.

Commissioner Shelly stated that in terms of comparing paddle tennis to regular tennis and as far as reaching new players is concerned she estimates there are 400 women who participate in tennis drills at Centennial between the months of September and May. If they play both sessions, the residents alone are spending over $1,200 and many of those women do not currently play paddle. As a result, this would be a great group to tap into and they would be very interested in a facility like this. The unfortunate thing about paddle right now is that it’s primarily a sport that people who are members at private clubs can play. As we have seen with the popularity of Winnetka’s paddle courts, she believes that the estimated usage totals of 200-250 are very low. She played paddle for a long time and has seen the growth of the sport over the last 10 years. Although an assumption, she disagrees that there would not be enough people who would play there. In fact, the survey of two years indicated 327 out of 500 respondents would be willing to join a facility if we built it. As a result, she would be in favor of the motion.

Commissioner Graham stated he questions the assumptions being made that make it sound easy to make money off of paddle tennis. If that were the case, one would expect to see more private entities building paddle tennis courts since a facility would not require a large area of land nor would it need to be a sophisticated facility. If it were this easy to make a profit off of paddle tennis, then he would expect to see these types of facilities popping up from here to Lake Forest. There are a lot of private paddle clubs but he doesn’t think we would be able to pull people in to play in Wilmette from those institutions. He agrees that Winnetka has been successful but they have been successful over a long period of time because of the way it was created. He understands the association came first but wonders if an association came to Wilmette and we already had 300 players, the association provided the land and the facilities, and we in turn would pay them a certain amount a year to cover expenses and financing, then that would be a different story. If it was a breakeven or even a profitable program for the District, he is all for it but he doesn’t think the data supports the project and that the logic isn’t there.

President Brault asked that the motion regarding paddle tennis be restated.

Commissioner Shelly moved and Commissioner Crowley seconded a motion to approve the construction of a paddle tennis facility at West Park and to direct staff to assemble and distribute Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for the design of a paddle tennis facility consisting of four courts and a warming hut, with the ability to potentially add two more courts if the demand exists at some point in the future.

By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Brault, Crowley, Murdock, and Shelly; voting No – Commissioners Benz, Graham and Olvany. Absent – None; Motion carried.


UNFINISHED BUSINESS:  None


NEW BUSINESS:  None

President Brault stated there had been a motion on the Action List in regard to the lease with Commonwealth Edison at West Park but that motion will be deferred to the next Board meeting to be held on Monday, August 13.

There being no further business to conduct, the meeting was adjourned at 8:08 p.m.

MINUTES APPROVED AUGUST 13, 2012.