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, SEPTEMBER 9, 2013
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 Crowley; Commissioners Bryan Abbott, Gary Benz, James Brault, Shelley Shelly, Amy Wolfe; Secretary/Executive Director Stephen Wilson; Assistant Secretary Judy Ostrem.
ABSENT: Vice President Olvany
STAFF: Superintendents Bowen, Eppelheimer, and Lambrecht; Communications Manager Shelagh Donoghue
VISITORS: Mary Shea, 735 Michigan Avenue
President Crowley called the regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Park Commissioners to order at 7:30 pm. Director Wilson conducted the roll call and a quorum was established.
COMMISSIONER OLVANY ATTENDANCE VIA ELECTRONIC MEANS:
Commissioner Crowley moved and Commissioner Benz seconded a motion to approve the electronic attendance of Commissioner Olvany at the September 9, 2013 Regular Meeting of the Board of Park Commissioners.
By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Abbott, Benz, Brault, Crowley, Shelly, and Wolfe; voting No -- None. Absent – None; Motion carried.
Commissioner Olvany was then declared as being present at the September 2013 Board meeting.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
Commissioner Brault moved and Commissioner Benz seconded a motion to approve the minutes of the August 12, 2013 Regular Board meeting.
By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Abbott, Benz, Brault, Crowley, Olvany, Shelly, and Wolfe; voting No -- None. Absent – None; Motion carried.
COMMUNICATIONS & CORRESPONDENCE: None
VISITORS: Mary Shea
APPROVAL OF VOUCHER LIST:
Commissioner Shelly moved and Commissioner Brault seconded a motion to approve the Voucher List in the amount of $2,699,623.82, 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 Abbott, Benz, Brault, Crowley, Olvany, Shelly, and Wolfe; voting No -- None. Absent – None; Motion carried.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT:
Director Wilson reported that in addition to the Facilities Committee report, there is also a lot of detail included in the Board’s meeting packet from Superintendent Lambrecht in regard to our four major construction projects that are currently ongoing although we are in the process of wrapping up of a couple of them. In terms of reopening the Tennis facility and reopening the wall that was damaged, as well as the remedial walls, this project is coming to a conclusion and we are looking forward to opening the facility with tennis drills on September 29. The ice rink project is also wrapping up. The system was started up and began to make the ice but there are still some small items that need to be handled. The one sizeable item left is the installation of the dehumidifier which helps to make the ice. Staff is currently looking to open the ice rink on Monday, September 16.
Director Wilson added that the Platform Tennis work has begun and is moving along well. Courts should be open by the end of October and the warming hut should be open by the middle of October. The golf course project has progressed in advance of the schedule due to the weather which has been cooperating nicely. However, it’s too early to determine if we will open by Labor Day weekend but the machinery is moving and the contractors are looking to seed on schedule within the next week or two. After that, they will start growing grass. The aquatics season concluded this past month and overall it was a successful year although there were some issues with keeping the pool open at the end of the season since when school begins it’s difficult to find enough staff to keep the pool open. However, staff continued to figure out ways to keep the pool open as many hours as possible.
The Lakefront Committee spent considerable time last Monday going through all of the items pertaining to the Lakefront Master Plan and there is a memo and recommendation in tonight’s meeting packet. The memo prepared by Superintendent Lambrecht was reviewed by the Lakefront Committee at their first meeting in June and then another document was used by the Lakefront Committee at their last meeting which contained the recommendations outlined in red from that Committee meeting. There was also another document of programming options that should be considered during the Lakefront Master Plan development phase. Director Wilson added that on the dais tonight there are also drawings from the alternatives phases and they are shown on the overhead as well if we needed them.
Staff has also begun our budget season and next month the Committees will be busy reviewing the different parts of the budget of each of those committees. Lastly, Director Wilson provided an update on paddle tennis enrollment which at the time of this memo totaled 89 members. However, since then we are now up to 110 members and at the end of this week we could be as high as 150 members. There are also 11 teams for the men’s league and two teams so far for the ladies teams so we are off to a very fast start.
Commissioner Abbott noted that the correct starting date for paddle tennis was at the beginning of October, not the end. He also added that he had a chance to tour Centennial and the golf course and was amazed at the amount of work already accomplished at the golf course. Commissioner Abbott added that Superintendent Lambrecht had also provided him with a tour of Centennial and he was amazed with the sheer size of the project especially seeing the new compressors installed.
Lakefront Committee – Committee Chair Benz reported the August Lakefront Committee lasted four hours and included a review of all the components of all the plans, all of the community input, and all of the commission’s input in an effort to pull a document together that will be provided to our consultants – SmithGroupJJR (JJR) – who will be putting together a conceptual drawing and explanation which is hoped to be presented to the Board in November. Those items would be the “talking points” which will allow us to speak the same language, see the same map, see the same costs and then discuss what we want to include in the master plan. At that point, we will then review what, if any, phases we want to include in the master plan in order for it to become a reality. Included in tonight’s meeting packet, there were three sections included for review by the Committee. The first was a memo from Superintendent Lambrecht which provided a comprehensive explanation for each of the phases in response to a question asked by the Committee in regard to what minimal changes have to be done. However, the intent was not to shortchange any ideas but to have the worn out and unsafe infrastructure be included in a comprehensive memo as we put together the direction for the consultants. A lot of the problems are located underground in the form of sewers, water vanes, and the corroding under-structure of the roads.
Committee Chair Benz added that the other two documents are those that we will spend most of our time on during tonight’s meeting and these are the items that will include the Lakefront Committee recommendations. After that a motion will made to submit those recommendations to our consultants and determine a cost for this plan. In essence, we are looking for direction on what should be submitted to the consultants. The consultants would then bring the plan back to us as a conceptual lakefront plan along with the costs involved.
We have also included in our timeframe ample opportunity for input from the public, the commissioners, and staff in order to come up with one single, large conceptual plan. He added that the last sheet in the packet contains program additions and considerations for the master plan. Chair Benz stated the first area to be addressed is Gillson Park and each component will be reviewed.
Road Construction: Chair Benz stated the Committee had not been unanimous about this item but felt strongly the road configurations that currently exist in Gillson in its long history have been very effective for moving vehicular traffic through the park and we would like to continue their general existence with some modifications including two circulation areas. The first circulation area is when you are coming off of Sheridan Road and going through the park and exiting at Washington Avenue. The second circulation is when you enter at the Lake Street entrance and exit which gets cars to the parking lot and the sailing beach. Also, one of the things that we plan to include as input to JJR was the area of the roadways up on top of Wallace Bowl. The issue there is that vehicular traffic has to be stopped or rerouted because of the noise, traffic, safety issues and congestion that occur at that time. In summary, the Committee is recommending a slight modification to the exit road in some form.
Chair Benz stated the Committee had reviewed the traffic pattern study of the park and the city streets surrounding Gillson and what was surprising was the number of pedestrians, bikers and vehicular traffic seen over the course of the summer months. However, the existing parking footprint actually was fairly accommodating during most of the weekend periods during the heavy summer months and we felt from the recommendations of the study that the parking lots should not be increased in size and that we instead look for ways to make it more efficient to accommodate more parking. Commissioner Abbott added that the parking study showed there was a tremendous amount of parking in the neighborhoods. So after further review, it was the Committee’s recommendation to renovate and rebuild the parking but not to expand it. Chair Benz added that they will also not be recommending a parking deck with a “green” roof and to determine different circulations in terms of traffic patterns.
Commissioner Brault stated his preference is that we make sure we have both egress and ingress and alternative #1 only has it as an exit. President Crowley stated there are actually three locations we’re talking about: Washington, Lake and Sheridan Road. Director Wilson added that the recommendation from the Committee was to maintain the existing traffic pattern with only a slight modification to the exit road to Washington around the Wallace Bowl and that everything else stays exactly the same. In essence, it’s what you have for Alternative #1 but it should be indicated with a two-way arrow.
Director Wilson stated that currently it’s one way in and then you exit out on Washington and this is proposed to stay the same. Commissioner Brault stated that as long as we have two exits he is okay with what is being proposed. Director Wilson added that there would then be an exit at Washington and an exit at Lake. Commissioner Olvany stated he favored Alternative #2.
President Crowley stated the third item is to leave the parking as is and just reconfigure it with the same footprint to be more efficient. He also stated that the only issue he has is with the traffic flow and the non-use of the parking lot exit to Washington.
Chair Benz asked if everyone was in agreement in regard to Road Construction. Commissioner Olvany stated he didn’t think we needed to go line-by-line but it is important that the consultant understands we want to make sure the existing traffic pattern as it exists now does not allow cars to exit the park and if you go into the park at Lake Avenue you are currently unable to exit the park at Washington so you have to enter and exit at Lake. Director Wilson added that when driving into the beach parking lot you can still exit through the Washington Street exit. You could also go through the south end of the south parking lot AND come up to where the two one-ways come together and turn right, go by tennis courts, go past Wallace Bowl and then go out on Washington Avenue. The area that is blocked is when you’re driving south down to the overlook drive. Commissioner Olvany stated he was referring to the road that runs parallel to the tennis courts up to Washington and his preference is that it not be open to vehicular traffic but simply be a bike path in order to minimize the vehicular traffic in the center of the park. However, his fellow Committee members had not agreed with him. Director Wilson then clarified that Commissioner Olvany’s recommendation was in line with Alternative #2.
Chair Benz stated that the Committee recommended keeping the same parking locations as they are currently provided in the park. Commissioner Olvany thought it might be more accurate to say that the Committee’s recommendation was to make the parking more efficient which might change that orientation at any of the other parking lots. He added that basically whatever makes it more efficient is what the Committee is recommending. Commissioner Brault stated that parking space is limited on high temperature days but it also seems that one of the most dangerous places in the park are along these roads where people are backing in and out. Commissioner Brault then asked if there was a way to make that less dangerous. Chair Benz replied that this issue will be addressed under the next topic of New Walkways in the Park.
New Walkways in the Park: Chair Benz stated there were several alternatives on how to handle the auto traffic, bike traffic and pedestrian traffic and the Committee concluded and are recommending that bike and auto traffic share the roadway with various explicit striping that would indicate the areas for parking, areas for vehicles, and areas for bikes. In addition, the pedestrian traffic is separated throughout the park from the roadways. As a result, the Committee is recommending changing that to make sure the pathways in the park are separate from the walkways. What we don’t want to do is interrupt the playing fields and open areas with concrete in order to keep the bikes and vehicles away from pedestrians and also to make the “ped-way” parallel to the roads so that people will feel safe. We feel that if the sidewalk is near the road, people will use common sense and use the sidewalk. Commissioner Brault thought it would be perfect for those people who are not familiar with the park and that the walkway should be well marked with signage on how to get to the beach or other areas.
Chair Benz stated another element of the plan is to make Gillson Park and Beach ADA compliant. However, the Committee is not recommending that Langdon Park be ADA compliant. In addition, signage would also be needed since it is required by federal law.
Commissioner Wolfe stated that in regard to the bikes and cars she thinks it will be good for most of the park but her only concern is that if you’re riding a bike up the hill at Lake Avenue it is difficult to see the cars coming down the hill and vice versa. She then asked if there was a way to keep them separated so that it’s safer for bicyclists. Commissioner Abbott replied that keeping them separate was mostly directed to the southern part of the park. Commissioner Olvany stated he thought Commissioner Wolfe’s point was well taken because since the traffic study indicated how much traffic goes in and out of that exit as well as the steepness of that hill. So unless you’re a professional bicyclist, separating that entrance in and out of the park makes a lot of sense so we should note that in our recommendation to the consultants.
Commissioner Abbott stated that there are more cars than pedestrians but if there was an area that was bottlenecked with backups it would definitely be the Lake Street entrance which would also be more problematic than any other area. Director Wilson added that Sheridan Road is a state road but Lake Avenue is not.
Chair Benz stated that the other items on the first page include storm sewers, water service and beach lighting. All of these things need to be repaired or replaced and we are including those as part of the recommendation we will be submitting to JJR.
Commissioner Olvany asked if additional discussion could take place on the walkways since what is being recommended is not currently showing on the screen. He also noted that the line labeled #2 would not be cutting through the park as Chair Benz had indicated although that is a part of the recommendation we looked at from the consultants. Once again, it is not our recommendation to go ahead and do that.
Commissioner Brault stated that when looking at the alternatives from the consultants he thinks the Committee is recommending Alternative #3 which does not have an east-west pass through the center loop. Chair Benz agreed that was correct but the paths are truncated there because this alternative included the roads, bikes and people all on the same paved line. In addition, as far as delineated walk-throughs go, Alternative #3 is a reasonable way to look at the issue.
Commissioner Wolfe asked if these walkways would be one large loop or would they be connected so that they could run through the whole park. Chair Benz stated it would seem reasonable that this could be the case but in putting together the Committee’s recommendations what we specifically did not do was to say here are where your paths will go, here is where we want the trees to be placed, etc. What we do expect is that the park engineers will come back to us with a preliminary master plan which will contain some creative ideas. Commissioner Crowley stated that when seeing all of this “concreteness” in one plan, he feels that it would be the appropriate time to say why didn’t you cut around this tree. As a result, what we’re looking at now is the conceptual direction to the engineers. Commissioner Shelly stated that if we do all of the bike trails and pedestrian walkways would we connect them so that everyone could just continue on. Commissioner Abbott replied that this was a reasonable request but also an assumption. The Committee had been talking about the southern walk and the bike trails in the road but then separated by striping and the walking paths that would run parallel to that configuration leading to the overlook and linking up to the beach. He would like to see some creative ideas about reducing congestion or figuring out ways to exit out on Lake Street.
Commissioner Olvany stated he thought that in regard to making a recommendation to the consultants, it would be appropriate to say it was the recommendation of the Board or Committee to have these pathways linked. He also thinks these walking paths should be something other than concrete but if that was the recommendation then he just wanted everyone to be aware of that.
Commissioner Brault stated that from a cost perspective he wonders if we could combine those two because of the maintenance issue of plowing in the winter. He then asked if it would be feasible to create a chip path for runners or people on the side of the path who want to walk parallel to it. Superintendent Lambrecht replied that anything is feasible but his only problem is that with any other type of surface other than a paved surface, concrete pavers or asphalt, it becomes a maintenance issue and we’re trying very hard to keep our maintenance costs down. He added that the problem with the loosed-filled materials is that they get kicked out and then someone else would have to fill it in all the time on a regular basis. Commissioner Brault asked if there was a “middle ground” option such as semi-permeable pavers. Superintendent Lambrecht replied that could be easily done. President Crowley stated that at the golf course they are going to use crushed granite on their cart paths. Commissioner Benz stated in regard to the pedestrians, the Committee’s concept is that the pedestrian path would separate both vehicular and bike traffic. Commissioner Shelly replied that if the Committee indicated that the vehicular and bike traffic would be together would there be another pathway made of non-concrete which would make it difficult for biking, rollerblading or pushing strollers on this path.
Commissioner Brault stated he thought there were two issues, the first of which is what type of path in particular we would want to walk or ride on and the second issue is what would it look like. Maybe it would be a compromise in that there would be a concrete path but then there would be landscaping adjacent to it so it would look different although the practicality would be the same. Commissioner Olvany stated this was also one of his concerns at the last Committee meeting which made him feel more comfortable about this option and the environment is similar to what we have now. What we are looking at is a stroller and walking path and that people can run on it but not to be totally concrete-oriented. Commissioner Olvany stated that was also his vision. Commissioner Brault summarized that we are saying yes to landscaping next to a concrete path which was the Committee’s recommendation.
Commissioner Abbott stated he would recommend that the main pedestrian walkway be made of some sort of hard surface and then have walking trails through the gardens but not all of them should be paved. However, he is open to reconsider other paths and what their surfaces might be but for the main thoroughfare he would recommend that those be hard-paved. President Crowley stated he thinks the idea of having two options is good and that vehicular traffic should obviously be concrete or asphalt but some of these pathways could be crushed granite, although the maintenance of it is something to consider.
Commissioner Shelly stated that if we do that then we might be taking away the option for people to roller blade and/or bike. There are also other parts of the country that have these beautiful areas and when they decided to go with some type of crushed surface it then becomes a huge maintenance issue and is instantly no longer an option for anyone.
Commissioner Olvany stated he feels comfortable going with the recommendation of the Committee basically because of the stroller issue as well as the roller blading and maintenance issue. He also thinks if it is a trade-off and that we would be better off going with what Superintendent Lambrecht has recommended. Commissioner Brault stated he also agreed after this discussion. President Crowley stated he doesn’t think strollers are an issue with crushed pavement but he does concede that roller blading would be an issue with crushed pavement.
Chair Benz stated that on page 2 there is the replacement of the sanitary lift station so that the waste water can move out of the beach house and Lakeview Center areas. There is also the replacement of the tot lot in the park which had been put off for a number of years while waiting for the master plan. The Wallace Bowl repairs were brought up and the Committee recommended not to make that a part of the master plan since we’re not talking about a reconfiguration of the Wallace Bowl. The items specified in Superintendent Lambrecht’s memo were items such as tuck-pointing and we think that’s a maintenance issue and not a master plan issue. The restoration and renovation of the entrance is also on the list.
Commissioner Brault asked if there was a way to have the stage area be smaller for some people who may want to use the space for a smaller wedding. He feels the current space is overwhelming but he is asking if there is way to make it more of a shelter type of space but yet still take advantage of its openness. Chair Benz stated that was a new idea and Commissioner Brault added it would be nice to have someplace that would be able to accommodate two different group sizes. Commissioner Brault stated he was specifically referring to the stage itself and the grass area. Director Wilson stated that staff could take a look at this option but he didn’t think this would need to a part of the master plan. However, staff could look for some type of moveable temporary structure with the ability to increase or decrease its size as opposed to a construction change being made to the Wallace Bowl. Commissioner Brault stated that he feels the space at the Wallace Bowl is generally underutilized.
Commissioner Shelly stated she thinks one of our difficulties is that we need to have backup space for inclement weather since people are always there for weddings, etc., and you would need to have an increased amount of space inside the Wallace Bowl as back-up space for your event. Commissioner Abbott stated that in regard to the alternatives and the programs presented to us, the Committee thought doing some tuck pointing and restoration at the Wallace Bowl was not part of the master plan. He was also one member of the Committee who considered this to be a programmatic option and that we would study the Wallace Bowl in terms of flexibility. However, he would leave it to his fellow Committee members.
Commissioner Olvany stated the Wallace Bowl is a unique venue and it may be too big for a lot of events which is a fair perspective. But it’s also a very interesting and architectural feature of the park. However, he doesn’t feel comfortable altering the Wallace Bowl too much, if at all, since it’s a unique aspect of the park so he personally wouldn’t want to touch that right now. Commissioner Brault asked how many events are held in the Wallace Bowl. Superintendent Bingham responded that we typically try to program events in the summer and we do have small weddings and group events at the beach. In terms of activities involving the Wallace Bowl schedule, camps do use it on a daily basis in the summer. We also have Great Gillson Camp which uses the Bowl as their starting point of the day as well as for lunch and then again at pick-up. Also because of the transition issues, staff has tried to avoid additional programming because of parking issues on the weekend. Superintendent Bingham added that there are also approximately 18-20 additional performances and in the fall and spring there are certain events such as the occasional wedding and church events that use the space on almost every Sunday. However, those events don’t really impact us too much since they begin at 7:30 am.
Chair Benz stated that now is the time to ask for any suggestions or to receive any additional comments from the Board. He added that we still need additional information at this point after hearing all of the issues raised tonight.
Chair Benz stated the Committee also has on this list the restoration and renovation of the entrance at Washington Street and that a couple of the columns made out of natural stone were crumbling and the stone has been in the park for a long time. Because the Committee recommended a road reconfiguration to get around the top of Wallace Bowl, clearly an entranceway would be part of the master plan and presented here for discussion. The entranceway should be looked at but the Committee doesn’t feel that the existing two columns need to be totally rebuilt where they are currently located. However, additional details will be forthcoming.
Commissioner Brault asked about the council rings and Chair Benz explained there is a council ring next to the Lakeview Center which looks like a coffee cup and the shuffleboard courts are a little north of the council rings. Superintendent Lambrecht clarified that there are three council rings in the park – one is just east of Lakeview Center, one is at the upper side of the Wallace Bowl at the north end, and one on the harbor walk just east of the Coast Guard area. Superintendent Lambrecht added that the council rings were built and installed by Jensen Landscaping who has done a lot of design work along the North Shore. Mr. Jensen himself had designed the rings for us. Basically, it’s a round seating area and gathering place with an Indian outgrowth. Chair Benz added that what we see in these council rings is something that might have a programmatic use in the future. Commissioner Abbott pointed out that the Committee had skipped over that item in their meeting and although it was not included in our recommendation, it does show up in Superintendent Lambrecht’s memo.
Commissioner Wolfe asked if the Washington Avenue entrance was part of the plan to have something at all three entrances and exits delineating the park. Chair Benz responded that no, the Committee did not make any specifications as far as design elements go.
Harbor Garden Walk: Chair Benz stated we also need to rebuild the Harbor Garden Walk and the Board may have noticed that when walking through that area there are several different types of paving alternatives and we are in agreement that needs to be rebuilt.
Beach House: Chair Benz stated that the Committee then moved on to the beach house which is a big issue since the Committee studied it to see if we could get by with repairing what we currently have. After the analysis, staff indicated that repairing the current beach house to acceptable building code levels would be more than half the cost of replacing it. Also, the big issue with the beach house besides its functionality is that the building material industry has advanced so much since then and that this 40-year-old building has now become a “concrete sponge” as staff calls it because of its ability to absorb water which makes the building deteriorate faster. Also, less permeable materials now exist so a replacement for the beach house would be a structure that would last much longer than 40 years which is why the Committee felt it was time for a replacement. Chair Benz added that the Committee hasn’t seen anything considered to be creative for the beach house so we’re hoping to get some new designs from our consultants.
As we look at the existing structure, one sees a concession area which cannot prepare food adequately because it doesn’t have sufficient kitchen facilities so they cordon off areas for food preparation which can be dangerous and changes the odor of the surrounding area. When talking about the entrance/exit area into the beach house the current structure has one entrance to the restrooms which means people who have been on the beach or in the park and want to use the washrooms, it then becomes very difficult for staff to differentiate who was at the beach and who was using the bathrooms which then becomes an annoyance to our citizens who constantly are being asked to produce their ID’s and passes. In some other local park areas, we saw a beach house configuration wherein you have a smaller bathroom on the outside so that people don’t have to go the “beach bathroom” for convenience which allows the beach house to act as a control element to the beach. We also have received a lot of community input which indicated there is not enough shade when they’re trying to enjoy the food service. There is also plenty of room for improvement in terms of programming at the beach house and we would like to see some designs of what can be done.
Commissioner Olvany asked that in regard to programming issues would tonight be the best time to hear what the Board has to say. He added that he thinks we need to pinpoint what we are actually asking the consultants to do and whether they need to go back to the drawing board. Commissioner Wolfe stated she thinks there are so many different directions in which we could be moving. Commissioner Shelly stated it could be something like Commissioner Abbott had suggested in regard to extending the season into the fall at the lakefront and even offer hot chocolate and concessions in the winter. She believes making it a four-season facility would be great although there may be several options. Chair Benz stated the specifics discussed tonight will be passed along to the consultants and then we will see what comes back from the designer. Commissioner Olvany stated he thought we should still have more concrete programmatic options and new ideas from the consultants for both the beach house and the Lakeview Center.
Sailing Beach: Chair Benz stated that what the Committee is recommending for the sailing beach is not a massive alteration but that the facility should stay as is although there is a need for a remote bathroom facility which should be added at the sailing beach area further to the north of the access road. The Committee also talked about picnic areas that should be updated because some people have had picnics in the park after it rains and it becomes a swamp. As a result, we’re looking for ways to improve those areas. We also talked about updating our roadway light facilities in terms of programming in Gillson such as winter recreational activities like cross country trails, ice skating, etc. that would tie into designated sledding hills and JJR has been asked to come up with some alternatives.
Master Landscaping Plan: The next item is the Master Landscaping Plan which we all concur needs to be done and that the Board has been talking about what had come up in discussion in regard to the memorial tree program. This program has been in existence for awhile and had been extremely successful with a very long waiting list. However, the problem is it probably would not fit in with the master landscaping plan so the Committee recommends that the memorial tree program be frozen as is and that the contracts not be extended.
Commissioner Crowley stated he would not be in favor of ending the memorial tree program and Commissioner Brault stated he was also not sure about eliminating the memorial tree program since it is inconsistent with having a master landscaping plan. As a result, we could encourage the consultants to allow for that to be incorporated within the plan but to not let it be a driving factor. However, he also thinks it has been a wonderful program so it should be placed on the JJR list to see what they could do. Chair Benz stated this was something that the Committee recommended not to do. Commissioner Brault stated he would like to see some options on how to run the program since scrapping it right now is premature and Commissioners Shelly and Wolfe agreed. President Crowley then stated that the consensus of the Board is to retain the memorial tree program in the context of the Lakefront Master Plan. Chair Benz stated that we have been talking about a lot of issues that would dramatically change Gillson Park and the Committee basically said that the master landscaping plan should override that since we don’t feel that the cutting down of trees, building new artificial dunes, etc. would be something that we are in favor of. We would also say that the master plan should enhance views but not at the expense of trees.
Commissioner Wolfe asked if there had been any discussion on relocating some items and making them more favorable to the environment like non-native plantings or some items planted that wouldn’t be good for the dunes. Chair Benz replied that we would hope the focus would be on the master plan since the community has indicated the landscaping plan is important and provides the blueprint on how things should be planted, what kinds of things should be planted, and certainly the notion of native vs. non-native species is a big deal.
Commissioner Brault stated he agreed with what Gary said but then asked why would we want to restrict the consultants in their planning if they think they can improve those areas and why would we tell them not to cut anything down to start with because we have some beautiful trees hidden by trees that are less interesting. Chair Benz asked how many trees that are not a part of the memorial tree program could be removed and Superintendent Lambrecht added that there are a number of invasive trees in the park such as scrubs and staff does a massive amount of pruning in the park.
Commissioner Olvany stated he would also agree with Commissioner Brault’s view and thinks our comments are too restrictive when thinking about what was done at Langdon Park by the Boy Scouts which enhanced the view there dramatically without having to remove any trees. Commissioner Brault stated his point is we don’t want to restrict the consultants and Chair Benz agreed and stated the real issue of the master landscaping plan is that it should be something we have not budgeted for and will not see in a master landscaping plan in November. However, the plan would be built off the conceptual master plan and once funding becomes available next year the master plan would then evolve. Commissioner Brault stated that unlike the roads which would be done or not done, the tree program can be done over time.
Lakeview Center: Chair Benz stated the Committee had a long discussion about this building because there’s going to be work needed to make it ADA-compliant so as a result we will be seeing some structural changes. Chair Benz then stated that since construction is taking place would there be anything else about the Lakeview Center that should be considered. He added that the Committee got has far as having an analysis done because we knew there was significant public inquiry about having a fence that would involve more than 80 people. So being mindful of the costs and given the existing footprint and the limits of what is there is in terms of foundation, we asked what could we tack on to this project and how many more people we could fill in at Lakeview Center. And the answer to that was the number of people would range from 80 to 100 and when an analysis was made it was discovered that it wasn’t enough of an increase to make it a viable business proposition. As a result, we then tried to figure out if there was some way the Lakeview Center could be economically viable and an asset to the community so what we are providing to JJR at this point is that as we continue discussions we are seeing a potential opportunity if we would increase Lakeview Center to accommodate 150 people. We are also asking JJR to provide us with an unobtrusive footprint recommendation to see if that would make sense. While JJR does their work, the Committee will do their work to see if that makes sense so that when the Board sees the master plan they will see a different footprint for the Lakeview Center. Also by that time, we should have a good feeling about a recommendation or we will quickly turn it back to what currently exists.
Commissioner Olvany stated he is not sure that this is what the Committee’s recommendation is. He also believes this is more of a discussion point for the Board overall and that the memo itself is pretty accurate. He doesn’t know what the magic number is but thinks what we’re saying is we all like the concepts currently out there but we’d like to see a new concept for expanding the Lakeview Center enough to create a potentially revenue-producing facility which will be used all four seasons. He believes the memo is in line with what our recommendation is. Director Wilson stated that in regard to the portion in the memo about the Lakeview Center, the statement was as follows: “No to concepts proposed in alternatives. Committee would like to see a new concept that would expand the Lakeview Center enough to be a revenue-producing facility and possibly expand the use of the facility to all four seasons of the year.” Commissioner Olvany stated that this is the sentence he was referring to.
Commissioner Shelly asked if JJR could provide us with a building without affecting any of the views and still have enough room for parking. She added we should let JJR come back and tell us what they can do based on our parameters. Commissioner Brault stated we need to give them more guidance as to what we want them to come back with. Commissioner Shelly stated there’s not a lot of room there now so she doesn’t know how many people the Lakeview Center can hold. Commissioner Benz stated that parking is not a consideration since the Lakeview Center as a facility does not get rented out in the summer months because we use it for camps and the park is always crowded so what we’re talking about here is the Lakeview Center after the peak summer months.
Commissioner Shelly stated she doesn’t know if we want to be held specifically to that timeline since there might be times in the summer when you want to make it available. Director Wilson stated it was safe to say that parking does definitely become difficult during the summer months and part of the objective he just read was to make it a useable facility for all four seasons of the year which means the summer which is the one season that it is not useable when it’s most desired. It is also to some extent something for staff to conquer such as parking. He also thinks the 150 number for the facility is what was discussed two Committee meetings ago when we were going through our analysis and we realized that was the magic number for people after calling and finding out the facility wasn’t big enough. We understand going to 250 is not feasible but 150 was what we were to tell JJR but failed to put in the text. But if everyone is good with that number he would like to use that as the number. Commissioner Shelly suggested that we could say to JJR that we want to hold 150 to 200 people which would provide them with more flexibility to see if they can come up with something. Commissioner Olvany stated that what he would like to have is the full support of the Board and to have a discussion on this point because this is definitely what the community is going to be interested in hearing and he wants to make sure that everyone on the Board is on the same page or at least fully supportive of what this document says in regard to what we’re asking of JJR which is to come back with to a revenue-producing facility that might be larger than originally planned.
Commissioner Brault stated he was concerned about creating another large space in the park because when looking at the golf course facility which accommodates 144 people he thinks it is actually rarely used and although he knows it’s a different facility built for different purposes it would still be a big space and we don’t take advantage of it.
Commissioner Shelly stated she thinks that may be due to the location of the golf course and that the lakefront is more accessible to a larger part of the community than the golf course. President Crowley stated that also in the summertime there are strong parking restrictions and he thinks the criteria would also be different. Commissioner Shelly added that we could indicate we would like 200 people for stand-up cocktails or for seats. Director Wilson stated that the numbers we’re talking about are for table seatings. President Crowley stated he thinks we need to focus on one concept that will ultimately be universal but if there are 200 people seated that would be a another issue. Commissioner Wolfe stated that if we lost an event because we were too small then what would our comparisons be or in other words what is our target.
Superintendent Bingham replied that staff conducted a survey on this a few months ago and it was determined that a lot of groups go to the Wilmette Women’s Club which holds about 250 seated at tables. They also go to Kenilworth and have functions at the Sheridan Shore rental facility as well as at Michigan Shores which is more costly but that is still an option for people. Commissioner Wolfe stated she agreed with Commissioner Shelly that we should go with the option for a bigger space. Commissioner Shelly added that we should start with a higher number and not restrict it to 150 people.
Chair Benz stated that we also looked at a few items that we have indicated we do not want to include such as a satellite restroom in the south part of the park and an additional jetty that parallels the existing jetty in the park in order to create another beach area for non-motorized craft. However, the Committee said no. We also looked at improved dog beach amenities and felt that should be included in the plan.
Chair Benz stated that the jetty comes up in the programming issues and if you look under the programming considerations page under #3 – Fishing pier and shoreline areas – what we’re talking about there is a rehabilitation of the existing rock rubble pier at the south beach area that would allow for seasonal recreational fishing options and that would allow people to use that platform which has not been useable in decades.
President Crowley asked who owns the pier and Superintendent Lambrecht replied that the pier is a part of the Wilmette Harbor Association (WHA). President Crowley stated he doesn’t understand why that is a discussion for us since it’s a property we don’t own. Chair Benz replied that as part of the Lakefront Master Plan the feeling of the Committee was that it should include the entire lakefront as part of the entire master planning concept. The fact that there are areas of underutilized spaces along the lakefront that could be improved upon or enhanced for public use is something that should be included in a master plan. Whether or not something is directly under our jurisdiction is something we should find out from the community if that would be something they want us to pursue.
President Crowley asked staff whether the jetty was a part of the WHA lease and Director Wilson replied yes and for 39 years. President Crowley replied that he is failing to see where the pier becomes part of this discussion. Commissioner Shelly asked if there was any change of their sub-letting or leasing it to the Park District. Commissioner Abbott stated that what he thinks Commissioner Benz is saying and that he would agree is that this could take a long time to talk about but we would be in favor of including some sort of improvements to that pier in the master plan while recognizing the difficulties involved in finalizing the plan.
Commissioner Brault stated he thought given the state of disrepair of this pier he thinks if we went to the WHA and the MWRD and asked them to give it to us and if we said we would take it with some restrictions we would want some contribution from their end. But whether it belongs here or not, is it something we really want to pursue and I don’t think we have fully addressed that. President Crowley added that his concern is the cost and even if it was a gift it would still cost $10 million and he doesn’t think we want that gift. Commissioner Brault stated we do have some very extensive estimates on what it would take to rebuild the pier and the consultants came back and said it would be cheaper to build a pier rather than renovate the current one. Director Wilson stated that he will verify the number but he believes the number in the engineering analysis when we were talking about the lease topic to renovate the existing rock pier was about $1.5 million. Commissioner Abbott agreed that was the correct amount. Commissioner Brault stated we could build one for $1 million.
Commissioner Abbott stated he didn’t think the Committee is saying where the pier should go but rather whether it deserves some place for continued discussion in the master plan. However, how it resolves itself isn’t part of the recommendations so far. Commissioner Shelly agreed we should keep it on the table. Chair Benz stated the Committee also felt that as part of the community discussion we should include it. Commissioner Brault stated we should think in terms of the feedback received to date if the community does ask about the pier. Director Wilson stated that then at every meeting people would ask about rehabilitating the pier and that it is something which would present obstacles to achieve it although it is something we did through the public input process.
Commissioner Olvany stated he had the benefit of looking at one of the documents as a result of one of our breakout sessions related to what should be added or subtracted and included items such as separation of bikers and drivers, circulation of parking, the Lakeview Center, beach house improvements, adding a comprehensive network of trails, separating the structures, reconstruction of the pedestrian parkways, improving misalignments, playground improvements, and possibly considering improving the pier to create an access to the jetty. He believes those are the top 10 items. Chair Benz stated that it was the Committee’s feeling the jetty should also stay in the plan. Commissioner Wolfe stated she wondered if people were aware of that cost.
Chair Benz stated that we need to keep in mind of where we’re going with our next step. As a result, we should review the master plan in totality and then have the community discussion. And as Commissioner Olvany noted the Committee thought that would be important to our community and should be part of the grand plan. President Crowley stated he still disagreed and stated the jetty doesn’t need to be a part of the plan but it would be something the District could look at separately. He also thinks that to throw this item in on something that we don’t own belongs in the master plan. He also thinks that no one would be willing to give the jetty to us either.
Commissioner Wolfe stated she was in favor of keeping the jetty in the plan for now because it does touch the sides of our beach. Although it might a far-fetched idea that we could really do anything with the jetty since it would be financially cumbersome but for now she would like to keep it in.
Commissioner Abbott stated he agreed with Commissioner’s Wolfe position and would say that we should keep the jetty in the plan. However, if the Board wishes to remove it and then provides direction to the Committee, he thinks we should keep it in the plan for further study.
Commissioner Brault stated that through the entire process we still don’t have a sense of cost for any of these items. We’ve also been talking about creating a needs list to see where that gets us and once we do that we will most likely have a round number on this issue relative to the incremental nature of any other project since this would be the single largest project we’ve been looking at. Commissioner Abbott stated the roads would also be a challenge. Commissioner Brault stated he would like to keep the jetty in the plan for now as well.
Commissioner Shelly stated she agrees that the jetty should stay in the plan at this early-planning stage. She believes we still have a lot to learn and it may not even be something that is acted upon but it’s in there if we need to study it.
President Crowley stated the reason he is dissenting on the jetty is that this is supposed to be an assessment of what we really need in the plan and he believes the pier is a wish list item, not a needs item. However, the consensus is to include the jetty in the master plan.
Langdon Park: Chair Benz stated that the Committee recommended that we not make Langdon Park an ADA park. However, what we need to do is improve the beach access so that we have a safe route to the beach. We also need a modest washroom as opposed to porta-potties. We also have the tot lot and the walkways through the park that need renovation which has been long past due but was put on hold waiting while waiting for the master plan.
President Crowley asked what about the washrooms, the lakefront offices, and the elevator. He understands about the elevator but he thinks we do need some kind of office for our staff. Chair Benz replied that this is part of the problem of trying to put together a functional list and the reason you see that under one list is because it was originally an Alternative #2 item which had been dismissed. He also agrees that staff offices should be part of the structure and the rest of the Board agreed. Commissioner Brault stated he was thinking it would be more like a shelter. Director Wilson stated that this would also allow us to move the temporary structure that is currently there.
Chair Benz stated that what we have here is a list of items that were included in the various plans and the items that received very dramatic “no’s” were all of the options that were presented related to vehicle drop-offs, drive-in areas, and moving the wildflowers gardens from the existing location to Gillson Park. However, on the “yes” list were the restoration of the bluff and dunes, the addition of enhanced views or at least keep them as they are now, and that benches and enjoyment items like “dune-ocology” and bluff plantings that are appropriate remain as a part of the overall landscaping master plan as well as of Langdon Park.
Commissioner Brault stated his one concern about Langdon Park is the safety related to the accessibility of the park since there’s not a traffic light there and almost everyone is parking on the other side of the street and crossing with all of their beach gear. What he would like to come up with is some ability for a safer drop-off but he’s not sure if a vehicular drop-off is the right answer. However, there must be something else we could do such as a putting some type of crossing light or something like we did at Lake Street in front of Vattmann Park which solved that issue.
President Crowley suggested that even if a crosswalk with a sign might work it could be hit or miss whether cars stop now since a lot of people just drive right through. Commissioner Wolfe stated there is also a curve there so even if someone stops to let you cross, people will be coming around the curve and would be unable to see cars. In fact, she has seen accidents occur when trying to get to Langdon Park. President Crowley stated we should ask staff to approach the highway department to study and come up with something for that spot. Commissioner Brault suggested that the Wilmette Traffic Commission would be a good start. He added that maybe the answer is we have a drop-off on the east side of the road which he would prefer and there might be a safer way to do that. Commissioner Brault added that he isn’t sure that the drop-off is the right solution however.
Chair Benz stated that he thought the points being made are clear and accurate and that the issues we have responded to were a couple of the iterations showing both a drive-in area and an expansion of Sheridan Road for drop-offs that we felt were not very attractive and also did not solve the safety issues that people would have if there was a pull-in area especially for those with children on Sheridan Road. The park is also not large enough for a drive-through loop. Chair Benz added that what he is hearing is the possibility of a traffic light. Commissioner Brault stated that would be something we would not have control of but it would be more likely that we would be able to control the ability to put a semi-circle in the park which would have to be approved by the State but it would still be easier than building a circular driveway. President Crowley stated he thought both ideas would work.
Program Additions: Chair Benz stated this item involves talking to JJR to make sure that the master plan includes a winter storm program, a naturalist plan, a fishing pier and observation area, and an expanded craft program and that fall programs be a part of it.
Chair Benz then thanked the Board for their patience during he review of the elements of the master plan.
Commissioner Brault asked if there was a financial analysis of this work and what the timing was for it. Chair Benz replied that the numbers were not brought up tonight since they still might change as we move along. We have also asked JJR to put together the plan for the Board and for JJR to bring to us the design elements we have been asking for with more realistic costs. As a result, it is anticipated that at the next Board meeting the Committee will be making another presentation which will include a proposed conceptual Lakefront Master Plan with costs. President Crowley asked what the cost was going to be for JJR’s work. Director Wilson replied that JJR is under contract to come up with a master plan at a cost of $35,000 of which we have not yet paid.
Commissioner Olvany stated that after reviewing the motion and after this discussion, he believes the next motion should be amended to indicate that the recommendations of the “Lakefront Committee” be revised to recommendations of the “Board of Park Commissioners” in regard to the master plan.
Commissioner Benz moved and Commissioner Wolfe seconded a motion to authorize the Executive Director to communicate the recommendations from the Board of Park Commissioners for the Lakefront Master Plan as discussed this evening to the consultants at SmithGroupJJR and to authorize SmithGroupJJR to create a final master plan in line with the terms of the current contract as amended.
By a roll call vote, voting Yes – Commissioners Abbott, Benz, Brault, Crowley, Olvany, Shelly, and Wolfe; voting No -- None. Absent – None; Motion carried.
Facilities Operations Committee – Committee Chair Brault reported the committee met this evening and summarized the physical characteristics of the paddle facility which should be open by the end of September. In addition, the paddle hut should be open by mid-October. There are currently 110 members signed up to play and there will be 11 men’s team and two ladies teams. It is also anticipated that number will increase to 150. In terms of the Ice facility, the renovation is largely complete and the process of making the ice began this week for the facility’s opening on September 23, 2013. Chair Brault also reported that tennis courts 3 and 4 should be completed by the end of September.
Chair Brault reported that the pools closed for the season although there was an incident wherein an adult individual became irate and was asked to leave the facility and to not return. Superintendent Bowen then explained the pool has a provision that when someone creates an unsafe or unhealthy environment, the pool facility has a three-strike rule for children followed by that individual being banned. However, for adults it’s only a one-strike rule. Chair Brault added that in the last 10 years, this was only the third time this action was taken.
Also at the meeting, the Committee discussed the potential of additional funds of $300,000 related to the shoring of the walls at Tennis and asked staff to come back with the recommendation for the completion of that work through the procedure that we have set up for the approval of an emergency action so that the specific number comes before the Board in order that everyone is well-advised of that number and that there are no miscommunications.
Financial Planning & Policy Committee – Committee Member Benz reported on behalf of Chair Olvany who was participating via electronic means. Committee Member Benz stated that the Financial Planning Committee met on August 26, 2013 and continued their review of the Personnel Policy manual and they are about halfway through making the updates. Various questions are also being addressed and we are making progress on that. The Committee also reviewed our audit results and plan process and the Committee asked if staff could do a fixed asset inventory. Staff replied they would come back with a recommendation and cost. We also asked that our auditors be contacted to review staff’s progress on the bank and account reconciliations and to provide a report in September.
In terms of the 2013 capital plan update, we agreed with the work to repair and secure the Centennial Tennis Facility and that several projects were deferred to 2014. The debt certificate issued for the golf course master plan and the update on the financing of the planned $500,000 debt issue for the golf course was discussed. The Committee asked if our retirement structure mimics the surcharge collection schedule so that we would not be coming to the Board with a possibility of making up the difference as this item played out. We also talked about the budgeting process for 2014 and that we had a consensus to increase taxes at 1.7%, to increase fees 2% - 3.5%, to establish a 2% merit increase pool, and to set other uniform increases in the 2% range. The EWGCGA also still has an outstanding balance of $366 and we continue to ask for payment. Also discussed at the meeting was the NSSRA capital plan.
Parks & Recreation Committee – Commissioner Shelly reported the Committee met on August 26, 2013 and time was spent discussing the Wilmette Eagles Football program and a couple of representatives from their Parent Advisory Committee were in attendance to discuss the progress they have made in communicating with other parents and their efforts in trying to grow that committee. They also provided additional updates on their efforts to work with the Park District on how to grow their program. Under Managers Reports, it was reported that fall classes began on August 26 and the numbers look great. Also discussed was the upcoming triathlon on Sunday beginning at the lakefront and that the number of participants was up to 500. Fall soccer is underway and the first games were played this past Saturday. Also, the District has taken over a women’s soccer league which has over 8 teams and room for two more. The Wizard of Oz will be presented by the Wilmette Children’s Theater during the week of October 15 and 20 and tickets will go on sale on September 16 at 9 am. The gymnastics department had an unfortunate issue with the foam pit but that the problem has since been resolved with the addition of all new foam. Also at the meeting the Village had come to us proposing an underground waste tank at West Park and at this point there is still quite a bit of discussion and staff will be meeting with the Village to gather additional information for the Board.
Golf Operations Committee – Committee Chair Brault reported the Committee did not meet in August since the golf course remains closed although construction is continuing at a rapid pace and even a bit ahead of schedule. Most of the shaping work on the new to-be-built greens is already done. Staff is still targeting to be open next Memorial Day depending on weather. At this point, it looks like we will be slightly ahead of schedule.
OLD BUSINESS: None
There being no further business to conduct, the meeting was adjourned at 9:45 pm.
MINUTES APPROVED AS AMENDED ON OCTOBER 14, 2013.