Date: November 18, 2013

Location: Park District Conference Room

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Attendance: Commissioners:  Shelley, Benz, Olvany, Crowley, Abbott
Staff: Lambrecht, Bingham, Wilson; Bowen, Heafey, Groves

Visitors: None    
Topics for Discussion:

1) Meeting Called to Order

2) Approval of Minutes
     a) October 21, 2013

3) Communication and Correspondence
     a) Emails dated November 15 and 18, 2013 from Kara McAlister and Dan Zelazny re:  liners on outdoor ice rinks

4) Recognition of Visitors

5) Manager’s Reports

6) Capital Improvement Projects Review

7) Proposed FY 2014 Parks & Planning Budget

8) Proposed FY 2014 Recreation Budget

9) Old Business
      a) Discussion of Underground Storage Tank Proposed by the Village of Wilmette

10) New Business

11) Adjournment

Discussions/Decisions Made:
1) The Committee reviewed the minutes of October 21, 2013 and approved them by general consent.

2) The Committee reviewed an email communication from Kara McAlister dated November15 and an email communication from Dan Zelazny dated November 18 in regard to the use of liners for the outdoor ice rinks. Commissioner Shelly stated she believes that the Park District should attempt to use a liner at one location at least this year. Director Wilson stated he had been in contact with the Evanston Recreation Department to discuss what their experience was like with their liners and they replied they used a liner at McDaniel Park last year and were able to keep between 15 to 20 days of skateable ice. Superintendent Lambrecht reported that in the 2012/2013 season, there were two periods when we had skateable ice – 3 days of ice for the first time and between 10 and 12 days for the second time.

Commissioner Shelly replied she didn’t think the ice at Thornwood Park lasted that long. Director Wilson added that even though Evanston had almost doubled the amount of ice time, the liner was destroyed from people using it even when there wasn’t any ice. Commissioner Shelly reiterated that the Park District should attempt to use at least one liner this year. Director Wilson then referred to a spreadsheet he had prepared which compared the costs of using a liner versus not using a liner at all locations. Commissioner Olvany asked if the calculations were based on fact or assumptions. Director Wilson replied that they were based on assumptions so that there would be a consistent baseline. He added that some of the labor calculations are based on our prior experience for establishing and maintaining the rinks. Commissioner Olvany asked if the new scenario would require boards to be placed around the rinks. Superintendent Lambrecht replied that there would not be typical boards, but that they would probably be 2” x 8” in size in order to hold the liner in.

Commissioner Olvany asked about the boards that were located at Thornwood Park. Superintendent Lambrecht replied that there were five 4’ x 8’ sections at each end of the rink that were set back from the edge. He added they were placed there to act as a barrier for pucks going past the ends of the rink. Since pond hockey play actually goes in the opposite direction, the boards served no purpose. There had also been complaints from neighbors about the sound of the pucks hitting the boards. In addition, they are now in disrepair so it is planned to not reinstall them this year.

Commissioner Shelly asked if the cost difference between using or not using the liner was the $36,556 amount versus the $23,970 amount. Director Wilson explained that over a five-year period the average annual cost with a liner at Thornwood Park would be $10,988 and without the liner it would be $7,990. Superintendent Lambrecht explained that while using a liner might appear to reduce labor costs, there actually is significantly more time involved with set-up and take-down of the rink and less time needed to build the ice.

Commissioner Shelly reiterated that at least one rink this winter should include the liners to determine if they work since there would be added value and an increase of skateable days on the ice. In her opinion, the cost for building a rink without a liner is too high for just a few days and she thinks that it would be worth trying it out at one rink. Director Wilson stated that last year the first build-up of the rinks was short-lived due to the weather but staff built them anyway in order to get some use in since the first year Thornwood opened was a bust with no ice all season. Commissioner Shelly added if liners and edging are used, the season would be extended.

Commissioner Olvany stated he is uncomfortable with making the change without receiving public input since the meetings about adding the rink at Thornwood were very contentious and adding the liners would be a different concept than what had been approved. This was not what the Park Board told the public, it could have an impact on the neighborhood for a very long period of time, and there would also be a large white tarp in the middle of the park. Commissioner Shelly replied she thought it was fair to experiment because what has been done to date is not working. Commissioner Benz added he doesn’t think this was a good comparison since the winters have been so warm lately. Commissioner Shelly added she believes Thornwood Park is the place to experiment with the liner.

Commissioner Olvany reiterated that a lot of people did not want the rink at Thornwood and that we would just be asking for a confrontation. Commissioner Shelly asked about possibly adding a liner at Mallinckrodt. Commissioner Olvany stated that once again that option would consist of doing something different than what the public had expected. Commissioner Shelly stated, if that was the case, then the Park District should go back to the public and state that these changes could result in a lot more ice time. She added that we are spending a lot of money for very little ice. Commissioner Olvany replied that buying all the materials is a big investment and there would still be a significant cost associated with the set-up and take-down of the rinks.

Commissioner Abbott asked if the use of the liners was a guarantee that the ice would last longer and Commissioner Shelly replied that there was. Commissioner Abbott also asked if the liners were bad for the turf. Superintendent Lambrecht replied that as long as the liners are picked up early enough in the spring they would not hurt the turf too badly. However in any case, the rinks are generally hard on the turf and cause a lot of compaction in those areas. Commissioner Olvany added that in his experience the liners do not last and that they even get torn up at homeowners' rinks who maintain better control of access than we do. Commissioner Shelly replied that the liners are also used in Winnetka and Evanston and staff replied that Winnetka is no longer using a liner since they have installed a refrigerated outdoor ice sheet. Director Wilson stated that Evanston used a liner at McDaniel Park because of the poor site conditions but our rinks are much flatter at Gillson and Thornwood. Evanston also lost a liner the first year they used it.

Commissioner Shelly stated that the outdoor ice rink issue should be brought to the public. Director Wilson stated that many of the concerns that the neighbors had expressed during the Thornwood Park hearings are now gone but the use of a liner should still go back to the public for their input. Commissioner Benz stated he doesn’t understand spending even more money for “free” ice that at best lasts for approximately two to three months. Commissioner Shelly stated that the Committee should make a decision. Commissioner Olvany stated he is not comfortable making a change based on one email.

3) Under Manager’s Reports, Carol Heafey reported that Halloween Happening went very well with a total of 566 children registered and about 1,000 people in attendance. New this year was “The Mummy’s Tomb” which was staged by Centennial Tennis staff. Surveys had been sent to the participants and comments received so far have all been positive. However, next year staff wlll be looking at ways in which to shorten the lines at the face painters booth. Commissioner Shelly suggested adding more face painters and Carol Heafey replied that is one option being considered. Commissioner Shelly also stated she heard nothing but positive comments about the event. Director Wilson stated the fee was increased this year and staff had anticipated there might be some negative comments. However, there were far more positive reviews from patrons who felt they received a lot of value for the price and the small amount of negative comments came from a couple of people at the beginning of registration. Each child also received a treat bag, a pumpkin, and everyone enjoyed their pizza dinners. Carol also thanked the Parks Department staff for all of their help in setting up and breaking down the Halloween structures and decorations.

Our fall programs had 1,623 patrons registered last year compared to this year’s total of 1,911 and that number does not include the new McKenzie After-School program which has 20 different offerings and 240 participants. Staff has also determined that the McKenzie programs have not cut into the CRC’s program activities.

The pre-season for Saturday Basketball begins this Saturday, November 23. Participation is currently down from last year at 494 compared to 585 last year. Staff believes that by the time the regular season starts the total participation will be between 510 and 520. Currently, a lot of children are now participating in travel programs between the Wilmette Wolves and RMG Hoops. Commissioner Shelly stated she has heard complaints about coaches missing games and other issues. Staff replied that it is difficult when you are counting on volunteer coaches since there can be times when people travel which is no different than soccer. Commissioner Shelly asked if there are still only two coaches per team and staff replied that was correct.

The Preschool Open House was held last Saturday with 22 families in attendance. Registration for the 2014/15 school year begins December 4. The performance of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown completes its run this coming weekend. Unfortunately, attendance at the shows has been low. Commissioner Olvany asked if staff ever marketed to the seniors at their various housing locations who might enjoy an inexpensive destination. Ms. Heafey said they have not done that in the past but will look into it for the future. Commissioner Shelly stated that the low turnout makes it difficult on the performers. Director Wilson stated the shows that bring out the larger audiences are those with children. Ms. Heafey reported that the largest crowd for the current show was 101 attendees this past Sunday. Superintendent Bingham added that almost any show with a large cast could fill seats.

Carol also reported the various holiday events are coming up and the “Letters from Santa” holiday activity begins on November 25. This program provides children with an opportunity to leave a letter for Santa in his mailbox at the CRC and they will then receive a personal letter in return. “Breakfast with Santa” will be held on December 7 at the Wilmette Golf Club. Two of the three scheduled seatings are already full and the third seating is close to being full. For the first time, the Park District will stage a production of The Nutcracker on December 14 and 15 which will include participants from the Park District’s dance programs and tickets are now on sale.

Jeff Groves reported that gymnastics currently has 1,874 participants enrolled including 92 team gymnasts. The girl’s travel team has been doing very well in recent meets and their next meet will be held on December 6-8. The Jim Scully Invitational event will be held on December 14 at the CRC. Commissioner Shelly asked about the level of staffing and Jeff replied that that they are continuing their search for a full-time coach. Superintendent Bingham added it has been a struggle finding someone who could fill that position and who would still be involved in the classes. Commissioner Shelly felt the problem was the number of hours required. Jeff replied that our gymnastics program is not the only one with this issue since several other gymnastics facilities are also looking for additional staff.

Jeff Groves also reported that the Fitness Center has been busy as the temperatures get colder. There are currently 1,500 resident members plus 193 non-residents and 135 employees for a total of 1,828. Personal training has been very busy right now with over 128 personal training sessions purchased. The Fitness Center will be open from 8 am to 3 pm on Thanksgiving Day. Commissioner Shelly asked why the center was open on a holiday and Superintendent Bingham replied that the center is traditionally very busy on holidays with the exception of Christmas when we are closed. 

Jeff also reported that the CRC recently hosted Vermont System’s Illinois User Group meeting with 175 to 200 participants in attendance. Commissioner Shelly asked if it was beneficial and staff replied that it was but was geared to the system managers who facilitate the use of the software, not the average user. 

The Mallinckrodt Community Center will once again be hosting the annual Thanksgiving dinner which will once again be sponsored by the Wilmette Rotary Club with additional help provided by a large group of volunteers.

4) Under Old Business, Director Wilson reported that he and Superintendent Lambrecht met with Village Manager Tim Frenzer and Director of Engineering Brigitte Mayerhofer to go over a number of questions regarding the proposed underground storage sewage tank at West Park. One of the major questions was related to the timeframe they are anticipating for construction and Village staff replied they are looking at a spring 2015 commencement. They are also hoping to have an agreement in place with the Park District by the end of the year so that they can begin the design and permitting process. The Village has to go through as much permitting, if not more, as we did for the Golf Course Project. There will also be times when there will be a lot of truck traffic in and out of the site. The contractor plans to have a flag man on Lake Avenue to monitor the cars and trucks moving in and out. They hope to start the project in the spring at the end of the platform tennis season. However, it would mean taking a Pony League field out of use for one season. Staff also discussed with them the concept of restoring the site with improved facilities and informed us that they are willing to work with the Park District. They also indicated the Village also had similar discussions.

Superintendent Lambrecht is currently working with Gewalt Hamilton on design concepts and to establish estimates for the improvements. Commissioner Shelly stated that since the Park District is giving up the ability to develop the site for any future structures, items to be discussed include washrooms, lighting and parking. Staff also has had discussions with the Village about parking since there is not enough room on the west side of West Park Drive for perpendicular parking. However, parallel parking could be added. If the perpendicular parking is needed, an agreement would then have to be reached with ComEd to utilize some of their land. If that is the case, we may be required to pay rent for the land. The Village has previously had to do that with parking for the fire station on Illinois Road.

Commissioner Olvany stated that at the League of Women Voters event, the Village representatives talked as if this proposal was a “done deal”. Director Wilson replied that no agreement has yet been reached and that the Village is quite aware the Park Board is willing to work with them if some agreement could be reached on the considerations given for letting them use the site. Commissioner Olvany reiterated that in his mind some discussion still needs to take place in order to come to an agreement. Director Wilson stated that he agreed we need to negotiate but it would not be in the Park District’s best interest to say no since the Village has the ability to use eminent domain to take over the site for sanitary or storm sewer purposes. Commissioner Olvany asked if all the environmental concerns had been answered and staff replied they had not noticed anything in the concept that would make them nervous. Commissioner Abbott added that the idea of an underground storage tank was not new and it is more often used for storage of drinking water. Commissioner Olvany asked if they had looked at other locations. Superintendent Lambrecht replied that Glenview had tried to do the same project with the Forest Preserve District but they said no.

Commissioner Benz mentioned that he had talked to various residents about the project and they were excited about anything that could be done to alleviate the sewage backup in their homes. Commissioner Olvany added that this project would most likely not help everyone. Commissioner Benz stated he had told some people about that but they remain sympathetic to those people who live in any area of the Village that has these issues. Commissioner Olvany asked if staff was clear about what the Committee was asking for. Director Wilson replied that staff will be discussing the turf surface, washrooms (which could be in the utility building for the tank), parking and field lighting. He went on to state that staff will continue the negotiations and report back to the Committee in December.

5) Commissioner Olvany referred to the email received last month from David Ennis regarding concussion injuries and the Eagles football program. Mr. Ennis is concerned about the Park District’s continuation of the football program in light of recent reports that have been publicized about the long-term effects of concussion injuries. Commissioner Olvany asked how the Eagles football program did this year. Superintendent Bingham replied that they have seen a decline in participation for the last five years which was at a high of 117 down to 93 this year in the travel program. In addition, participation in the house program dropped even more. She believes the community is becoming hypersensitive to concussions although over the years there have been very few injuries of that type. Most recently there was a broken wrist and a sprained knee but there were also times when injuries did not get reported. There was one concussion in 2012 and two concussions in 2013. Staff has taken extra steps to make sure the coaches are educated to recognize the symptoms. Players were also encouraged to be pre-screened this year so that there would be a baseline in case they did receive a concussion.

Commissioner Olvany added that football is not the only sport to worry about since soccer also has a high rate of concussions. His feeling is that as long as PDRMA is willing to provide insurance coverage for the District, he is willing to continue the program. His real question is if the tackle football program should continue based on the data that has recently come to light. Superintendent Bingham reported that there have not been any known concussive injuries in our soccer program. Director Wilson added that the same kind of concern exists with hockey except that the hockey program is not run by the Park District. Carol Heafey stated that all coaches now receive training on how to check for concussions. Commissioner Olvany asked if Team One provides insurance for the Lacrosse program. Superintendent Bingham replied that they do provide insurance.

Commissioner Olvany stated his feeling is that the Committee needs to have a heightened awareness of the issues and continue to monitor the programs. Commissioner Shelly felt that it is the parent’s responsibility to decide whether or not their child should participate in a sport. Commissioner Benz stated that he has heightened concerns because of these issues but his main concern is to make sure the Park District is covered by the proper insurance coverage. He also believes that if the trend continues and participation continues to drop, the tackle football program may have to end. Director Wilson added that the greater concern is to stay out in front of public perception and he wants to make sure we are ahead of the tide in offering other sporting options for the users. Participation in youth tackle football is down all over the country and “Pop Warner Football” is down over 13% nationally so his instinct is that tackle football has a short future. Ms. Heafey added that we will get to a point wherein we will not be able to field a team for the travel program which will be the end of that program. Commissioner Olvany felt we should discuss these issues with our liability carriers and make sure all of the possibilities are taken into consideration.

Commissioner Benz stated he felt much better about the fact that the Park District purchased and provided new equipment three years ago. Director Wilson agreed and added that people in the past were using hand-me-down, used equipment that was worn out and ill-fitting. Commissioner Benz reiterated that he thought the fact that we put money into safety for the equipment was a big step and that obviously there are also other issues that need to be carefully monitored.

Commissioner Olvany asked if it was true that Jim Rome was retiring this year and if so, would staffing be an issue. Ms. Heafey reported that the new director who has been hired is very good. Commissioner Shelly asked about the status of the Parents Committee. Ms. Heafey replied that staff provided all of the information they had requested before the first game and have not heard anything since. Commissioner Olvany stated he had heard the Committee was trying to recruit more members but was being met with lukewarm receptions.

There being no further discussion, the meeting was adjourned at 7:47 pm.

Minutes taken by Bill Lambrecht