WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
LAKEFRONT COMMITTEE MEETING
Date: August 5, 2013
Location: Park District Administration Office
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Commissioners: Committee Chair Benz, Abbott, Olvany and Crowley
Staff: Wilson, Bingham, Bowen, Donoghue, Eppelheimer, Lambrecht, Specht
Visitors: Trudy Gibbs (League of Women Voters); Mary Shea, Kathy Routliffe (Wilmette Life), Dan Dorfman (Wilmette Beacon)
Topics for Discussion:
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Approval of Minutes
3) Recognition of Visitors
4) Communication and Correspondence
5) Manager Report
6) Old Business
7) New Business
1) The meeting was called to order at 6:30 pm.
2) The Committee reviewed the minutes of July 1, 2013 which were approved by general consent. Commissioner Abbott stated that he would like to amend the minutes to reflect that the bathrooms were painted blue, not black. In addition, the last line in the next paragraph of the minutes should reflect that it was a “quarry” tile, not a “porcelain” tile. Chair Benz added that on page 3, the second paragraph, it states that “Commissioner Abbott asked if there was a strong thunderstorm contingency plan” and he would like to add “for the 4th of July fireworks” to that paragraph.
Commissioner Olvany moved and Commissioner Abbott seconded a motion to approve the minutes of July 1, 2013 as amended.
By a voice vote, voting Yes – All; voting No – None. Motion Carried.
3) Under Communications and Correspondence, Superintendent Bingham stated a letter was received from Julie Nelson who indicated she wanted to add her comments to the Lakefront Master Plan process.
Commissioner Abbott stated he went on a tour with Lakefront Manager Holly Specht and it was very informative. He also enjoyed going to Gillson for the Salsa Dance program, the overnight campout at Gillson Beach on Saturday night, and the performance of Night at the Opera in the Wallace Bowl. These are all wonderful programs and he is particularly pleased with the overnight campout in the park.
Chair Benz stated he received an email from Robin and Peter Baugher who indicated they saw a structure behind the Evanston Lighthouse which they thought might have some applicability for Langdon Park. The Baughers also provided a photograph of the structure for the Committee’s review. Basically, the structure is a very simple bathroom and the roof is utilized as an overlook with benches throughout the beach. On one side there is a ramp for motor vehicles with stairs in the center of it and on the other side there is a concrete walk. However, the area was not necessarily ADA-compliant. There were also exterior showers along with several trash containers. Commissioner Abbott added that the bathroom was tucked into the bluff and was unobstructed from the upper deck. It also incorporated some ADA issues in regard to elevation changes by utilizing both sides and incorporating a deck.
4) Under Recognition of Visitors, Mary Shea, 735 Michigan Avenue, thanked the Park District for forming this committee specifically for the lakefront. She also believes there are a lot of issues that still need to be addressed. As a citizen, she is grateful that the Park District is paying attention and listening to the residents. Commissioner Benz thanked Ms. Shea for her comments.
Trudy Gibbs, representing the League of Women Voters, stated she was in attendance at the meeting tonight to gather additional information on the lakefront plans which she will then pass along to her fellow members.
5) Under Manager Reports, Lakefront Manager Holly Specht reported the weather in July was unusually cool and wet although our campers still showed up and the sailing beach was busy. For the month of July there were 17 outside camps visiting Gillson which resulted in an additional 1,458 campers. The water has been closed three times for rip currents in July – one-half day for bacteria and one half-day for both rip currents and bacteria.
The July 3rd festivities went well and 50 of our lifeguards worked throughout our parks to help those patrons looking for lost items, keeping the fireworks off of the beaches and monitoring the water. On July 4, the weather was perfect for the Fun Run. On Sunday, July 8, at 6:30 pm, staff members Katie Bradford, Adam Price and Billy Maloney made the District proud by helping to save a man’s life after he suffered a heart attack at the Gillson Park Sailing Beach.
Holly reported that even with the recent inclement weather, the sailing beach has been busy and rentals have been good. Rentals of our SUPs have also been going very well and they are currently our most frequently rented vessel. The Sunfish boats have been rented 65 times even though staff has always thought of them as lesson boats. In regard to the SUP’s, there have been some issues with people not following the policies and pleading ignorance when having problems staying in the SUP zone.
Our sailing lessons and aquatics camps are finishing up and next week the combination Tennis/Aquatics camp begins. This year we added an afternoon aquatics camp which doubled the number of campers in that section for that week along with a full waiting list. The annual Lifeguard Games were held on July 29 and 30 and we came close to beating Evanston this year. However, we were successful in taking first place in several of the events including distance swim, the girls run-swim-run, second place in kayaks, and first and third place in the rescue board relays. We were also reviewed by PDRMA and everything went well including our lifeguard audit.
The first Gillson overnight campout was held this past Saturday and was a great success with an enrollment of 83 parents and children. During the course of the evening, some people who had not signed up asked if they could bring their tents and camp on the beach overnight as well. As a result, staff would like to offer two campouts next summer since everyone found the event so enjoyable. Even though staff set up other activities that evening, most of the participants were content to stay on the swimming beach the entire time. Our lakefront staff stayed awake all night to patrol the area and at 4:00am they served coffee and cereal to the participants.
Commissioner Abbott stated it seemed to him that there weren’t many people on the beach that night. Holly replied it is a big beach but staff encouraged participants to camp in the same general area in order to have some control while at still making the participants feel like they were staying on their own private spaces. Commissioner Abbott thought it was a great idea and he had always wanted to camp out on the beach.
Commissioner Abbott asked if staff was trying to get the SUP users to go beyond the underwater sandbar. Holly responded staff was trying to get them to move past the swimming area in order to provide a landing zone for other boats. Superintendent Bingham added this is the challenge staff encounters on the south end of the beach since the SUP’s could skirt the shoreline and not even try to get around the swimmers or the sailors. Actually, the only disappointment the SUP users have is that they can’t sail along the shoreline.
Chair Benz stated the Committee would review all of the issues at the end of the season in order to determine if additional corrections or alterations should be made. Superintendent Bingham added that staff could also conduct another survey of the sailors. Holly suggested that since we are still in the 2013 season, we could discuss this issue further when the season has ended. Superintendent Bingham stated we also haven’t had a long stretch of hot weather so she doesn’t think we have had a true test of how well the changes that we made have worked.
Commissioner Olvany asked how things were going this year compared to last year in terms of keeping people out of the water and monitoring the south beach. Holly replied there have been some people this year who have returned to the lakefront with a better understanding of the rules which resulted in their being less combative. She also believes there are some people who go down to Elmwood to walk and swim on those private beaches and they continue to test the rules. This year the situation at south beach is much better and staff has felt more comfortable. The swimming beach is also busier but if someone goes out on the rim and looks toward the beach, it appears as if the swimming beach is fuller than south beach which is opposite of what it was like two years ago.
Commissioner Olvany added that last year we needed to work very hard to make sure people were following the rules at the sailing beach and it appears they are now doing so.
6) Superintendent Bingham stated that included in the packet was a Park Permit Request for a wedding ceremony on Saturday, September 21, 2013 with 150 people from 2 to 7 pm. She added that there seems to be more wedding requests this year than in the past but these events still have not caused any problems. As a result, staff recommends approval of the permit request.
Commissioner Abbott moved and Commissioner Benz seconded a motion to approve the Park Permit Request for a wedding ceremony in Gillson Park on Saturday, September 21.
By a voice vote, voting Yes – All; voting No – None. Motion Carried.
7) The committee discussed the Lakefront Master Plan and an element of that is to be as precise and clear as possible when interfacing with staff, the consultants and the public. Committee Chair Benz suggested a mission statement for the committee.
Chair Benz stated that for the past three years we have drawn upon the experiences of consulting engineers who specialize in public parks along with citizen commissions and public feedback meetings. The public has spoken clearly and the Park District Commissioners and staff have listened. “This committee is charged with guiding the development of a final Lakefront Master Plan. This committee, with assistance, will present a single conceptual proposal to the Park Board of Commissioners and to the public for feedback by November 2013 and will then supervise its design and implementation of the start of the project in September 2015.”
Chair Benz stated that the committee is trying to fit the project in so that they would not be starting it during the summer months. The Board has also asked for some specific direction as to when they can expect to see some output and these are the two dates mentioned because we think they are doable and required for this project to be completed within a reasonable timeline.
Commissioner Olvany stated he would not call that a committee mission statement since he doesn’t think it is our role as a sub-committee to say what our mission states. He does generally agree with a lot of what’s in the statement but he doesn’t think we need to have a formal mission statement. He also doesn’t want to go outside of the scope of what our committee is being charged with by calling it a mission statement because that is not our job. Our job is to take direction from the full Board and then go from there.
Commissioner Olvany also stated that the full Board directed this committee on what we were supposed to do and now it’s our job to implement that. However, the timeline that Chair Benz is trying to accomplish is a very accurate representation of what he thinks our role should be. Commissioner Abbott stated we do want to take the full Board’s guidance on this project and that the statement is an attempt to provide greater definition.
Commissioner Olvany stated his viewpoint is that it’s the Committee’s responsibility to take all of the input that we have received, review all the different plans along with our own ideas, and then synthesize everything into a comprehensive plan to be provided to the Board so that we can move forward to the next step. However, he does believe the timeline that Chair Benz created is completely accurate and that it is our job to put it all together, bring it to the Board, and then listen to feedback from there. He also thinks the timeline may sound aggressive but believes it would be achievable.
Commissioner Abbott stated the timeline currently includes the initial report and recommendation to the Board in November of 2013 which may actually require three such submissions followed by wrapping up in the spring of 2014.
President Crowley stated that the mission statement is really a committee update and the second half of the statement is just a report. He would also like to see a timeline and stated that Commissioner Abbott provided the Committee with a very good idea of where we currently stand but he believes we are a lot further along than Commissioner Abbott believes. He also thinks that by November of 2013 we will have a good idea of how to move forward.
a) ADA Accessibility Requirements
Chair Benz stated the Committee had asked staff to provide three reports that were included in the meeting packets. The first topic is in regard to the District’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Superintendent Lambrecht stated that in the fall of 2011, the District conducted an ADA assessment on all of our properties including the parks and buildings. Also included in this report are the specific areas relative to the lakefront that consist of the beaches and buildings in Gillson Park, Gillson Park itself, Lakeview Center, and Langdon Park. He added that the information presented tonight highlights the problem areas that need to be rectified in those buildings. There are also issues in the parks although the beach at Langdon Park would not have to be made accessible since we could designate Gillson Park as our accessible beach. This information was based on discussions he has had with the consultants.
Chair Benz stated that if you have two of the same facilities, one of them needs to be ADA compliant. Director Wilson stated one out of every three designated swimming beaches administered by one agency needs to be ADA-accessible. Superintendent Lambrecht added that as a result of our only having two beaches, we just need one beach which that will be ADA-accessible.
Superintendent Bingham stated that Superintendent Lambrecht had incorporated most of those issues into his first report which he has provided. Superintendent Lambrecht stated that in most cases any improvements we make relative to the must-do list would resolve most of that ADA required work. For example, we wouldn’t want to repair the beach house since we couldn’t make it ADA accessible.
Commissioner Olvany stated there were certain components to the tax levy that are assigned to different activities that we provide and one of those components has to do with taking care of the needs of those with special needs. Director Wilson stated there is a part of the tax levy called the Handicapped Recreation fund. The State, under Section 5.8 of the statute, allows for the community to tax for this specific reason and it is where we tax for our payments to NSSRA for their services. However, the cost of doing ADA work in any of our buildings or parks can also utilize the same fund.
Superintendent Lambrecht stated that as an example, we are currently installing a wheelchair lift at the Centennial Ice Rinks facility and making several other changes and as a result, those expenditures are also being paid for out of that fund. He added that in previous years, we have also made improvements to our playgrounds such as surfacing products to make them accessible has also been paid through that fund. Even transitional ramps in the parking lot and warning strips can be paid for out of the Handicapped Fund. Superintendent Lambrecht added that another example would be putting in an elevator in Lakeview Center which could be paid for out of the fund. Director Wilson added that what staff is trying to do is to delineate the costs for ADA purposes when we can. However, we do not want to “blur” the lines and use this levy for an item that is questionable.
b) Beach House
Chair Benz stated that one of the elements when we looked through the must-do list was the beach house which was fairly expensive so we asked staff for answers to any future questions as to why we don’t just repair what we already have. He also asked staff to indicate what that work would entail in terms of ongoing maintenance expenses.
Commissioner Olvany stated that the photos indicate very clearly what the issues are with the beach house. Superintendent Lambrecht stated it is a 42-year-old building and it can be a very rough weather environment at the lakefront. The facility is also facing more north than east and the building takes the brunt of those winds. The actual construction of the building is also not very well done. The water has also caused a lot of problems which can be seen in the photographs. Staff has made a number of major repairs over the course of time and the only items that have lasted are the brick columns that do not absorb water.
Commissioner Abbott stated the report put together by Superintendent Lambrecht was excellent. Based on his review of the structure, it is insufficient for our current or future programs at the beach. The report includes information about the efficiency which would be repaired but doesn’t explain the deficiencies that we are missing out on which includes ADA, ventilation, controlling access, lack of shade, insufficient storage, and other programs that might be introduced like multi-purpose areas or expanding the season. It also doesn’t address all of the current standards and programs such as first aid. Commissioner Abbott also stated he wished his architects and contractors were as effective at communicating these issues as well as Superintendent Lambrecht has just done.
Chair Benz asked Superintendent Lambrecht if it was correct to say that in regard to construction we have learned from the materials and approaches used in the past and that maybe a new structure could last longer than 40 years. Superintendent Lambrecht stated that the products on the market today are far different from 40 years ago so there are all kinds of opportunities for recycled and very durable materials. There are also several concrete products for siding and trim that would be very durable and last much longer at the lakefront than anything else done before.
Chair Benz stated that at this stage we could review the data to see if the Committee members could provide additional direction or insights. The first item on the list is the Lakeview Center Lost Revenue discussion which pertains to the significant number of requests for events at Lakeview Center that are larger than what the center can currently accommodate. Our question as we put together a master plan is if there was a magic number for expansion and to find new resource allocations.
Director Wilson stated that when looking at the alternatives that had been presented, the current capacity is about 80 seated people in the Lakeview Room. The concept which was put forth expanded over the area where the concrete dumpsters are to the south of the Lakeview Center. As a result, that only netted us a capacity of 24 seated individuals. So by going from 80 to 100, the estimated cost would be $425,000. Then looking at some of the statistics in our system and talking to staff in regard to the phone calls they receive, it was estimated we were losing roughly 50 reservations per year wherein people would call but then decline to book their event because they needed more space for 80-150 people. Director Wilson added he attempted to look at the competitive rates of other facilities but there was no true count. Staff also contacted the Women’s Club of Wilmette which has a nice banquet hall and can accommodate up to 250 people. Even when comparing the Lakeview Center to Mallinckrodt, we are charging less for the Lakeview Room although a lot of that has to do with the fact that Mallinckrodt has a nice full-service kitchen available.
As a result, the concept we developed includes a new full-service kitchen which took the rates up, added in the lost rentals, and did it over the course of a year with higher rates and more rentals and then took that into the estimated cost of $425,000 to get a breakeven number of years which totaled nearly 13 years.
Commissioner Olvany stated that on the rate side is it true we currently charge $165 for 3 hours pm weekdays and $270 for 3 hours on weekends. Director Wilson responded yes but that is only taking it to a cost of $10 more an hour as compared to rentals at Mallinckrodt. So by having a similar room and a full size kitchen, $10 an hour didn’t seem too big of a difference. Staff also visited some other women’s clubs in Evanston, Wilmette, and Kenilworth who all charge significantly more than we do and they are able to take in more people.
Holly stated that if a renter doesn’t need tables and chairs, can accommodate 150 people in Lakeview Center. She added that we also use the Gillson Room which can take in another 30 people. Director Wilson stated that the most common request is for a room that holds 125 people. Commissioner Olvany summarized that what we’re saying is to use the existing footprint and then using the JJR drawing as an example of the footprint which would get us to 100 people.
President Crowley stated that number one on the list of everything we need to do is ADA-related since that is a mandatory and automatic item. Number two would be the beach house and along with that goes the bathroom located a bit further north. Number three is a revenue generator which includes Lakeview Center because of its location at the lakefront. He added that what we’re missing in these numbers of people of what we can hold in the facility are the 50 people we’re turning away and that number is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Once again this is a huge revenue source staring us in the face.
Commissioner Olvany agreed with President Crowley and stated that the revenue opportunity at the lakefront is large. However, the question is to figure out where to put this structure that would make sense. Commissioner Abbott stated that in terms of going from 80 to 100 people, we allowed ourselves to be limited by the existing foundation that is currently there so if we were to utilize that foundation you could easily accomplish an expansion there but it does limit us to 100 people. You could also get those groups of 125 people but you would have to put in some new foundations which isn’t that expensive.
Commissioner Olvany added that in regard to what Director Wilson just stated we are talking about a project that will be self-funded. As a result, this will not cost taxpayers a dime because we are going to receive more revenue out of an existing facility. Also, what we’re asking now is not to come up with the specifics but to ask how large is this opportunity going to be. He also feels that we’re undercharging for something that we could charge more for if we had a better venue which could be utilized and turn it into a revenue generator in the context of the park and which we could use for other things. Commissioner Olvany added that his point is simply that the facility would pay for itself because it would rent out very easily and it would be something that if done correctly would be a very nice facility. However, he doesn’t think we need to do more “number crunching” in order to come up with this decision.
Director Wilson stated that in regard to his analysis and when talking about opportunities this current number is not the opportunity but 150 would probably be more in the ballpark. Commissioner Olvany stated it is our job as a Committee and, as President Crowley noted, we want to create a revenue-generating facility so this item will be something we’ll be considering at some point.
Director Wilson asked what the Committee would need from staff in order to continue discussion, if anything. Chair Benz replied that staff has currently provided more than enough information to look at this again with our consultants and that the community has been fairly clear on the size and scope of the project and that they do not want an expansion of Gillson Park and it is now back in our hands for our other experts.
Commissioner Abbott stated the committee and Board have been talking about a series of options such as road construction and the beach house in addition to the many items of the master plan that the public has identified. These items could be culled over within the next few months along with estimates placed on each item by the Committee and in consultation with the Board. He stated that if all goes well an initial plan could be presented in three months which is the Committee’s initial recommendation for the Board to review and provide input. After that, he anticipates there would be three more passes. The second pass would take two months and the last pass would take just a month. The dialogue between the committee and the board would take us to the spring of next year and would consist of moving forward with the Lakefront Plan. Commissioner Abbott then distributed a draft on how the process could proceed.
Commissioner Olvany stated that the Committee that there are a lot of different options and projects. One item he feels is not necessary is for estimates to be provided for each option. He doesn’t think we need a price tag for each item that has been put in front of us. For example, he thinks that a parking garage option is not on the table so we don’t need a price estimate for that. He also thinks that in regard to next month’s meeting which will include pricing options, there are a lot of options in front of us and he doesn’t think we need to ask staff or anybody else to go through all of these options and price everything out. Rather, he would prefer to get right into it and get staff to be familiar with all of the items mentioned in Superintendent Lambrecht’s memo as well as other recommendations. In addition, we could go down the list and say yes or no for each item and then have that be followed by a pricing discussion.
Commissioner Abbott stated he has a pretty good sense of what these items cost so he could do a cost/benefit analysis but if you feel you can make decisions on what to put in and take out, we can do that too. Commissioner Olvany stated that there are certain items that he would like to see included in the plan and there are some things he is confident he doesn’t want to see although he doesn’t necessarily need a price for each one of those which would take up a lot of time and effort. Commissioner Abbott replied that it was basically for the Committee’s review and that we would get to pricing the items eventually. Commissioner Olvany stated that couldn’t be done within the next four weeks and Chair Benz agreed with Commissioner Olvany.
Chair Benz stated that we have had three years of work on the lakefront plan to know there are a lot of alternatives that are now off the table due to lack of interest by the public. We also know what our issues are and that we have a very detailed list of what needs to be done. What we need now is to put together a single conceptual plan that will then facilitate discussion and provide people with something concrete to see. President Crowley stated he thought the Committee was very close to getting to that point.
Commissioner Olvany stated that in our current budget, we budgeted a certain amount of dollars and there are some funds remaining which is in the neighborhood of $35,000. Director Wilson stated that our contract with JJR was to move from the alternative stage to a final, singular master plan concept. Commissioner Olvany stated that by using this timeline at next month’s meeting we could all come to an agreement in one month, return to JJR, spend that $35,000, have a reasonable plan at that stage, and then submit the plan to the Board. Director Wilson stated it would be an approximate 60-day turnaround. He added that if this Committee can get a consensus of what the next step is, then in November the plan could return to this Committee or the Board which is definitely feasible.
Commissioner Abbott stated that in regard to what the designers would do for us, would they be asking questions. Director Wilson replied that would be a discussion that would need to be sorted out although he knows that JJR would be happy to come in to figure it all out but that would be up to the Committee and the Board.
Commissioner Olvany stated that although we have multiple documents in tonight’s meeting packet, the one item he would like to see from staff from for next month’s meeting and beyond is one document that includes everything in the JJR plan as well as in Superintendent Lambrecht’s plan, even if it is repetitive. He would also like to have them create a list of sub-topics under the main topics. He added that having that information well before the meeting would also be helpful. Director Wilson stated staff would get that for review before the next meeting. Commissioner Olvany stated that as an example, when he was running for the Park Board, he thought it would be great to have a sledding hill and a cross country track at the lakefront but that is currently not in the plan. However, it would only entail cutting down a few trees. As part of the public discussion, he could ask the Committee what they thought about that possibility and then discussion could follow whether it should be in plan or not. In general he believes we need to have more time with the plan before moving forward.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 7:15 pm
MINUTES APPROVED ON SEPTEMBER 3, 2013.