JOLIET – There will be changes on the board at the Joliet Park District on April 4 with only one incumbent in the election for four seats.
Six candidates are running for three four-year terms on the board. Two candidates are running for one two-year term.
The park district itself has been in a period of change, making park improvements with money from a $19.5 million bond referendum approved in 2014 and recovering from a shakeup at the top when former Executive Director Dominic Egizio was forced out in October 2015 amid a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Candidates for four-year terms
One issue that candidates have focused on is the future of an East Side community center planned for Nowell Park.
“To this day there’s still nothing there,” said David Talarico, a Troy District 30-C school board member who said his eight years on that board give him experience that will be valuable on the Joliet park board. “Before the year is over I want to see shovels in the ground at Nowell Park.”
Other candidates share the sentiment.
Incumbent Sue Gulas, who is completing her first term and became board president after the death of Glen Marcum in November, said planning for the Nowell Park project is close to being completed.
The project was delayed, she said, “because due diligence was not done by our previous executive director,” and the park district only recently completed federally required preparatory work required to assure that the site is not in a flood plain.
Gulas said her primary reason for running for re-election is to see projects through to completion.
Jim Patnoudes, an employee of the Forest Preserve District of Will County, said the park district “can do better on the East Side and the far West Side. There are projects in the works though.”
“My big focus,” Patnoudes said, “is seeing that projects and promises made to the East Side community get fulfilled.”
Joe Clement, a detective with the Joliet Police Department, wants to revive a past practice of hiring Joliet police to patrol the parks at certain times to increase safety.
“I really want to bring back the park police,” Clement said. “We did this 20 years ago. It was very beneficial. I think it’s going to be one more layer of safety at the park district.”
One issue facing the park district in coming years is maintenance of aging buildings, said Bill Tatro, a past park board president who was on the board from 1997 to 2009.
“We really need to take care of the aging infrastructure we have,” Tatro said. “We have a lot of parks that bring in no revenue whatsoever, but we have to take care of them. We have buildings that are 35 to 40 years old, and we have to take care of them so they last another 35 or 40 years.”
Kevin Paul, a sales representative who also tends bar at the Traditions restaurant inside the park district’s Inwood Athletic Complex, said continued maintenance is a top priority for the future.
“The biggest challenge the Park District faces is creating revenue to fix existing facilities, build new facilities, expand programming, and continue updating our parks,” Paul stated in a Herald-News election questionnaire.
The two-year term
Two candidates with familiar names square off in the contest for the vacancy created by Marcum’s death.
Marcum’s widow, Patricia Marcum, and Matt McGuire, son of recently retired Will County circuit clerk Pam McGuire, are the two candidates.
Both say that the park district must continue to prepare for the future.
“I think they need to continue with a long-term plan that is going to meet the needs of the residents because the park district is growing by leaps and bounds,” Marcum said.
McGuire said the park district is already losing revenue because it cannot accommodate residents.
“We have one sheet of ice [at the Inwood ice arena], and that’s inadequate for the amount of teams we have,” McGuire said. “They have to go out of town and use other facilities.”
McGuire, a Joliet firefighter, worked for the park district for 15 years before December, when he resigned his part-time position as assistant manager at the Inwood Golf Course to run for park board.