Friday, November 28, 2008

Peoria Park District and the RiverPlex Continuing Saga's - Part 3

For OSF to become involved with the PPD to build a Fitness Center in conjunction with the RecPlex, both entities needed approval from the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. Hereinafter called the IHFPB. The contract signed by OSF and the PPD, Project #89-111 contained the following stipulations:

First, OSF and the PPD will amend the Management and Operation Agreement by adding a subsection to Section 9.2 which allows OSF to terminate the Agreement WITH OR WITHOUT cause upon giving the PPD 180 days advance notice.

Second, OSF and the PPD commit that scholarships, based on need, will be made available to individuals below the federal poverty level. These scholarships will comprise one-third of the members of the Family Fitness and Wellness Center.

In a letter dated 7/14/99, to the Executive Secretary of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, the OSF Administrator and the PPD president signed off on the agreement.

On August 5, 1999, the IHFPB asked the coalition to revise the reading of the agreement for scholarships to cover the entire RecPlex and OSF and the PPD agreed.

A permit was issued shortly thereafter and at that time the IHFPB appeared to have "washed their hands" of the project.

On 7/25/02 JS reporter Sarah Okeson wrote "RiverPlex wants to limit scholarship members hours", 'Board wants more PAID memberships in already full facility'. Board member Jim Cummings questioned if it was legal to restrict what hours poverty people can use the RP. Board president Tim Cassidy said, "Once the 'certificate of need' is issued, the IHFPB loses jurisdiction over the facility. It's perfectly legal. It's legal for us to do anything we want." (Mr. Cassidy is an attorney). Shortly thereafter, the term "either party could terminate without mutual agreement was changed that either party could opt out of the contract only by MUTUAL agreement. Hmmmmmmm.

The PPD almost immediately took action to reduce the number of poverty level participants. Membership, originally intended to mean one family membership was interpreted to be each PERSON within a family. So a family of, say, 5 became 5 memberships.

On 5,24,2001, JS reporter wrote, "RiverPlex GM Resigns Position". "Days afte signing up a number of ;ow-income developmentally disabled adults, a RP General manager says she was forced to resign. GM Debra Lay says she was told her actions were going to cost the district a lot of money. Park Superintendent Bonnie Noble called Lay's comments "way out". "She's resigned and that is all I can say say."

President Cassidy, commenting on the one third scholarships in the contract said "if the demand is out there, we will do what we can to have it met."


On 2/4/03, JS Reporter Sarah Okeson wrote, "Depending on how you crunch it, RiverPlex in Debt." 'One thing is for sure, it's not meeting it's 70% retention goal. "The RiverPlex plans to switch from one year contracts to monthly memberships, (ah,ha) to eliminate the hassle of renewing memberships. We have a lot of problems with people not wanting to come to the facility just to renew. They think it's an imposition, said Tina Fraembs business coordinator for the facility". Lori Slusser, the RiverPlex General Manager and soon to be transferred to another position, said the RP "is reducing its retention goals".

Park executive director, Bonnie Noble, who took as gospel or something when 1999 paid surveys showed more than 17,800 families would join the RiverPlex now says , "There's nothing out there that could have predicted this". Hmmmmmm.

Also, did the members not have mailing addresses so statements could be mailed?

On 5/15/03 an article by JS reporter Sarah Okeson, read "RiverPlex to bump members", 'falling numbers of paying users means fewer scholarships'. "The PPD capped the number of available scholarships at 33% of its MEMBERS saying the PPD had only 3967 paying members. Last July, the PPD restricted the hours that new scholarship and did not allow "poverty people" to use the RiverPlex during prime time. In order to further reduce Riverplex costs, administration expense of $79,454 were reallocated to the the PPD overall budget."

On 5/23/003, JS reporter Sarah Okeson wrote "RiverPlex about $480,000 in the red". "It's not a pretty picture, but we are in this for the long run, said PPD Board Treasurer, Roger Allen. Yet on 6/3/03, Mr. Allen wrote "The Peoria Journal Star Misunderstands RiverPlex Finances", claiming that the Fitness Center actually made $34,000. Interesting. With Mr. Allen as Treasurer, the PPD has used "creative financing". Mr. Allen is still Treasurer.

On 2/18/02 the PPD released a document showing that the Fitness Center had an actual loss of $777,274 in 2001, this loss split between the partners. The same document showed a revised loss of $775,000 for 2002 and a 2003 budget of $780,000 loss, with an overall RiverPlex budgeted loss of $783,526 plus $860,175 for, here is is again, "annual principal and interest on the $10 million in borrowing shown in pro forma". On 6/1/03, PPD Treasurer wrote a letter to the PJEB stating "for the four months, on a conservative basis, the Fitness Center made $34,000. Hmmmmm.

On 6/2/03, Peter W. Wallison, General Counsel to the Treasury under President Reagen wrote in the WSJ, "Give us Disclosure, Not Audits", 'Financial Statements are prepared by the organizations management, not it's auditors. Auditors are not capable of making the judgments management must make during the auditing process. The most they can do is question management's estimates, and then only if they seem unreasonable'.

When I asked the private auditor handling the year end financial reports, this auditor told me their firm could only work with the figures the PPD gave them. I stand by my claims that the PPD uses creative bookkeeping, did and still does.

Sarah Okeson, who replaced Reporter Jennifer Davis's, stopped reporting for the JS shortly thereafter. Jennifer Davis (Stevens) was reassigned by the JS a while later.

Recently, an article appeared in the JS stating that OSF could terminate their agreement with the PPD by MUTUAL agreement. Evidently the contract has been rewritten and the IHFPB had no interest after they approved the original contract. My letter to then Director Pam Taylor went unanswered.

On to Part 4 of the RP Saga.

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