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Free Press Newspapers | Wilmington, IL

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10/2/2012 9:45:00 PM
City, Park District still disputing maintenance agreement
ISLAND PARK DISTRICT superintendent of maintenance Bill Crews used a string trimmer on the bank of the South Island Monday, the scheduled job for the day. An agreement between the city and Park District provides for the maintenance of the property, and lately has often been the basis for disputes between the parties.
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ISLAND PARK DISTRICT superintendent of maintenance Bill Crews used a string trimmer on the bank of the South Island Monday, the scheduled job for the day. An agreement between the city and Park District provides for the maintenance of the property, and lately has often been the basis for disputes between the parties.
How strained is the relationship between the Park District and the City of Wilmington? It may take an outside facilitator to bring the two sides together concerning a park maintenance and lease agreement.

The intergovernmental agreement, which should define who is responsible for management expenses and activities concerning the city-owned, Park-District maintained parks, is open to interpretation. It has been the impetus for a number of disagreements between the two governmental units this year.

Members of the Park District's Board of Commissioners last week expressed their dismay at the lack of progress for cleaning up the agreement. The district provides for grounds services on the North and South Island parks, and leases, with maintenance responsibility, the Children's Memorial Park in Northcrest, Veterans Memorial Park and the Brookside Park.

Last year the City Council was discussing transferring ownership of the three leased parks to the Park District. Some members of the council were opposed to giving up the city assets, and the transfer process came to a halt. Since then, both parties have supported reviewing the 10-year agreement to better reflect their current working relationship.

Committees were formed to negotiate. Director Renee Chavez said the Park District committee presented a number of options and were waiting to open dialog on them. It's been five months since city and park officials sat down to discuss the agreement.

"We had hopes that this would be a good improvement, and help sort things out. I see letters in the paper that sort of points to the confusion that people have over who does what," commented Island Park District Commissioner Tom Glenn. "I'm disappointed that it isn't moving forward."

Illinois Central Sch Buss

The intergovernmental agreement's shortcomings, as well as what has been done in the past, make it difficult or confusing to interpret responsibility, and as a result, debates have taken place as situations arise.

Recently the parties have had disputes about relocating portable toilets, paying for the replacement of lights on the ballfields, and whether the district is authorized to charge the city to mow the property the agreement says it's solely responsible for maintaining.

City Administrator Tony Graff said the issue is not really the intergovernmental agreement, it's the relationship between the taxing bodies. In the past, the issues were worked out between the city and Park District's staffs, usually outside the terms of the intergovernmental agreement, he notes. But presently the agreement has become the framework for finding fault with the district.

"We need to have a strategy session so both entities understand each other's roles, equipment, manpower and expectations," Graff said. "That's a good meeting to have."

Both boards, he said, need to decide if the city and Park District are going to be partners, or work as separate entities. Either way the money both sides spend come from the same taxpayers.

"We get along with every other taxing body in this town except them," commented Park Board President Randy Hill. "... If they're having problems with that agreement, then move forward and get the problems resolved now."

With mowing season coming to an end, the commissioners hope discussions about the agreement will begin and be productive, so that the issues are resolved by the next time the mowers come out.

Graff agreed reviewing the agreement hasn't been the priority it should be, and proposed a meeting next week.

"For a year [the relationship] has been strained because we've not gone into a structured environment to talk," Graff said.



Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, October 12, 2012
Article comment by: Lester Klager

I have in past years of my 74 years of life dedicated myself to civic responsibility in my community. I have serveved 7 years as a zoning commissioner and four as a Village Trustee in the village of Lansing IL.
I have resided in Wilmington since 2004 and the parks along the river have been a joy to me. I spend 1-2 1/2 hrs a day in S. Island Park from ~9am to ?.
I am awed at the lack of contigruity between the park district and city regarding the parks., and am interested in enjoining an advocacy group of concerned citizens to try to force a unified direction between the city and park district.

Is there an interest from either governmental body, a similar advocay group, or if not any of them to encourage my interests? I have attendfed park district meetings and they seemed interested and suggested I meet with the City government: and wished me luck. That is a response of people who have tried and are totally frustrated by failure to reach any form of cooperation between the two governing bodies.

This is to me preposterous and totally ludicrous. I wish I have the energy I'd had when I was an active public servant, but I don't.

Yet I feel very strongly that SOMEONE needs to step forth and kick the peoples butt who stand in the way of congruity of action regarding what is clearly a HUGE asset to the City of Wilmington. I see the Water Street business district struggling when it should be a bristling business community. Retail buildings are empty and decaying locations that should be contributing to the financial base of Wilmington.

I am quiter familiar with St. Charles MO. situated on the Missouri River. Wilmington is a "down-sized" version of St. Charles. Both of our pasts bristle with rich history of what makes our nation great. Yet St. Charles has a riverfront district where the old warhouses where goods were stored for shipment up and down the river, including the goods Lewis and Clark needed for their search for the northwest passage, are now a huge asset as retail suppliers creating income to the city. I don't remember seeing an empty building along the riverfront, as I see on Water Street.

I have found such richness in the history of our city that should support a similar economic growth and find a governmental lack of interest that is resulting in decay, and it appears to begin with the park/city conflicts.

I would like to stimulate cooperation between both governmental bodies, and advocate citizens, to pattern their thoughts along lines that have created the existing and thriving beautiful riverfronts of St. Charles MO and Naperville Il on the DuPage River. If I had the financiaol assets, and more energy, I would be organizing a trip for all concerned citizens and government officials to visit both of these successful community development to visualize what an asset Wilmington IL has, and urge ALL of us to unify and resolve issues and pursue such excellence.

The Island City, with it's heritage of historic Rt.66 and it's part in the history of the KKK river, the IM Canal system, the fugitave slave movement, the historic buildings along the river and unique historic pearls such as "Octagon" house on S. Water - what an outstanding history we have!

We owe those who developed the city, and the God who created us and this beautiful riverland, to forget whatever causes our difference and unite to preserve and add life to it's future.

What a blessing we have and what a waste I see of this blessing.

Anyone who would like to help me instill a spark and breath into a kindling fire to turn the current trend around, I welcome to contact me through my email address.. There is no way that I can explain the passion of my request and what it's cost to me is on a deeply personal basis.





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