JOLIET – The Joliet Park District will place a $19.5 million referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot for a multitude of projects, including renovation of 23 area parks, construction of an East Side activity center and resurfacing of roads and trails at Pilcher Park.
The Joliet Park Board unanimously approved the measure at a special board meeting Monday at Inwood Recreational Center.
Notably absent from the proposal is a second sheet of ice at Inwood Recreational Center, a proposal opposed by more than a fifth of the district residents surveyed about the plan.
"I think we've done our due diligence," said Dominic Egizio, the district's executive director. "We listened to what the citizens of Joliet have said."
Funding will require raising the district tax rate about $20.50 a year on a home valued at $100,000. The original $20.9 million proposal would have cost taxpayers about $21.60 a year on a home valued at $100,000.
If the measure is approved, the district's priority will be to improve roads and trails at Pilcher Park and improve playgrounds, followed by upgrading security, Egizio said.
Two additional playgrounds – Manningdale and Crombie – will be added to the 21 parks already marked for improvements under the proposal, Egizio said.
The district currently upgrades one or two of its 75 playgrounds each year, he noted. Many haven't been updated since 1991.
"The park district has done a great job putting band-aids on to keep playgrounds going a lot longer than they should have," Park Board President Glen Marcum said.
Park district surveys indicated that security is another key issue for potential voters, Egizio said. Security primarily would include electronic enhancements, such as license plate readers and security gates.
"Pilcher Park, in some respects, has become a dumping ground due to a lack of security," Egizo said.
Of the 1,000 residents surveyed by mail, 60 percent said they would be willing to support the park’s plan. A phone poll of 300 likely voters – conducted June 30 and July 1 by Public Opinion Strategies – showed that 58 percent likely would vote in favor of the tax measure.
Egizio emphasized that funds would be used for capital improvements, and not personnel, salaries or pensions.
The referendum also includes funding for an East Side recreational center and a field house, as well as money for planting new trees.
Terry D'Arcy, owner of several Joliet automobile dealerships, will head a citizens group to garner support for the measure.
Educating the electorate will be key, D'Arcy said.
"We just need to tell it like it is," D'Arcy said, "How little it cost everyone and how much it will help the community and our children."