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Local News

Joliet considers $120,000 subsidy for Splash Station Waterpark

The future of Splash Station Waterpark may depend on whether the city is willing to provide $120,000 to open it this summer.

The Joliet Park District is considering closing the water park as it looks for budget cuts in the aftermath of voters rejecting a tax referendum April 2.

Meanwhile, the Joliet City Council is slated to vote Tuesday on a $120,000 subsidy that would keep it open.

Closing Splash Station was one of a list of more than 20 measures proposed to the park board at a meeting Monday.

Others included:

• Ending programs at the Hartman Recreation Center and using the facility for rentals and special events only.

• Closing one of the district’s three golf courses, although which course has not been identified and the proposal was described as a long-term plan.

• A hiring freeze and wage freeze for park employees.

Splash Station is Joliet’s only outdoor public swimming area and draws more than 55,000 visitors each summer.

Two park commissioners initially said Monday that Splash Station should stay closed, pointing to its history of operating at a loss, whether or not the city is willing to fund it.

Splash Station ended last summer at a loss of $130,000.

“I’m in favor of closing it, even if we get funding,” Commissioner Joe Clement said.

Clement called the district’s budget situation “serious stuff. We need to start somewhere.”

“I’m on the same page,” board President Sue Gulas said.

Gulas said that even if a city subsidy kept Splash Station “open this year, I’m sure after that we’d close it.”

The park board later met in closed session to discuss long-term plans for the Splash Station.

Afterward, Executive Director Tom Carstens said, no final decision was made on Splash Station.

Commissioners Joe Mutz and Bill Tatro said they favored keeping Splash Station open this summer if the city provides funding.

“If we get $120,000 and have a decent season, we could break even,” Mutz said. He added that the park district needs a plan for Splash Station whether it stays open or not.

The City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on an intergovernmental agreement with the park district to provide $10,000 a month for 12 months to keep Splash Station open this summer.

The park district referendum for a 58% property tax increase was turned down by 71% of the voters. The tax hike would have raised $5 million a year.

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