Thursday, October 5, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Officials with both the village of Maywood and the Maywood Park District, two separate taxing bodies, have said that they’re ready to see six village-operated parks in Maywood turned over to the park district. And the park district executive director said that the district is currently working on a plan to do just that.
During an Oct. 3 regular meeting, Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins prompted the discussion about the parks after singling out an item on the night’s omnibus agenda.
The item called for approving and authorizing a direct payment reimbursement agreement between the village and the park district so that $285,000 in TIF funds, approved by the village on Sept. 19, can go directly to contractors performing rehabilitation work on the park district-owned 809 W. Madison St. building.
The agreement ultimately passed, 4 to 1, with Trustee Antonio Sanchez voting against it. Trustees Henderson Yarbrough and Melvin Lightford were both absent.
Before the agreement was voted on, however, Perkins brought up a 2006 ballot measure favored by over 75 percent of voters that called for 10 of the 11 parks in Maywood to be under the consolidated ownership of the Maywood Park District.
The village still maintains six of the 10 parks because the consolidation hasn’t been finalized, Perkins said.
Currently, the village maintains Conner-Heise Memorial Park at 10th Ave. and Washington Blvd.; Winfield Scott Park at 17th Ave. and Maywood Drive; Bataan Park at 22nd Ave. and Lexington Ave.; Standard Park at 5th Ave. and Lexington Ave.; Tot Lot Park at 4th Ave. and Huron St.; and Water Works Park at 9th Ave. and Maywood Dr.
The park district maintains the Central Park District (its current headquarters) at 9th Ave. and Madison St.; Burton Park at 16th Ave. and Washington Blvd.; Tot Lot at S. 10th Ave.; and Bosco Park at 21st Ave. and Railroad Ave. The district also maintains a historic property at 216 S. 10th Ave.
The 2006 ballot measure doesn’t apply to the village’s control of Maywood Veterans Memorial Park, located on the corner of 1st Ave. and Oak St., or to the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center (which the village jointly operates with the West Cook YMCA) and the Multipurpose Building at 200 S. 5th Ave.
“The entire village is being taxed by the park district,” Perkins said. “They should be taking care of all of the parks.”
“I totally agree,” said Trustee Isiah Brandon. “As we are moving forward I think this will be a great time to make sure we ratify that 2006 consolidation process to make sure that those parks are turned over to the park district and to make sure that the village of Maywood is out of the recreation business.
“We’re still spending dollars to maintain those facilities when I believe that we can take those resources to focus on our streets we own to make sure our image looks great,” he said.
Trustee Ron Rivers, however, said that the park district “at this time doesn’t have the finances to take care of the parks … It’s not correct to even try to insinuate that the park district isn’t doing their due diligence in taking care of the parks.”
“I don’t think anything is being insinuated,” Brandon responded. “Years ago they put together a tax levy [that] should’ve put them in the financial position to maintain those parks … A lot of folks have made a lot of money off of just having conversations, whether it be Maywood’s attorney or the park district’s attorney, about who is going to get what and nothing has transpired. It’s totally ridiculous. We need to move on this now. It’s past due.”
During an interview on Oct. 5, however, Lonette Hall, the park district’s new executive director, said that the district is already working on a plan to gradually take control of the parks starting in its next fiscal year, which begins May 1. She said that the district plans to take three parks during the first fiscal year and three parks during the next fiscal year.
“It will be a gradual transition,” Hall said. “Our intention is to do an even, easy transition.”
Hall added that which parks the district will take first and the exact cost of the transition haven’t been established yet. The district, she said, still needs to present the plan to the village board.
Dawn Williams-Rone, the president of the Maywood Park District Commission, said that it could cost the park district “a lot since in order to bring those parks up to IAPD (Illinois Association of Park Districts) standards, which they’re currently not.”
At the Oct. 3 board meeting, Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr. said that he thinks the parks “are in excellent condition.”
Hall and Williams-Rone said that some primary reasons that the parks haven’t been consolidated yet are staff turnover and the park district commission’s priorities — the most significant of which has been the rehabilitation of the Central Park District.
Since 2013, when Williams-Rone was elected to the commission, the village has had four temporary and/or permanent village managers, and two mayors, while the park district has had five different executive directors.
“There have been multiple transitions within village government and in the park district, so some things have been put on the back burner,” Hall said.
Williams-Rone added that, since she was elected four years ago, the commission has been focused on getting its financial house in order so that it can finally open the 809 Madison Building, which she said has been empty and unused for over 30 years.
In order to secure matching funds for two state grants that will pay for both exterior and interior work, the district, under former executive director Antonette Dorris, implemented an austerity plan that called for frugal spending and deep budget cuts.
“With the austerity program, we couldn’t take on a lot of responsibility,” Williams-Rone said. “If it was up to us, we’d be more than happy to have all our parks back and everything pertaining to parks and recreation under our jurisdiction.”
Hall said that during her first few months on the job she’s been optimistic about the possibility for collaboration between the two taxing bodies.
“We’re in a good place to have open conversations and dialogue,” she said. “I see an open line of communication with the village.” VFP
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