Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Peoria Park District Missed Projections

Most people don't realize that the Peoria Park District (PPD) has a yearly budget between $40 to $50 million, a size-able chunk of that money coming from property tax. Also, that they are guardians of approximately 9000 acres of land.  I predict in the not too distant future that budget will rise to about $60 million, financed partly by raising fees, closing golf courses or raising levies and taxes. An example of raising fees: one PPD shelter my family once used for free but the PPD now collects $100 each use. We hold family reunions where the shelters with restrooms are free.

Promises have been made and broken; example, Peoria Stadium grounds were to be used for major league approved fast pitch softball fields. Never happened despite Noble and Cassidy insisting it would happen. (See my earlier blogs on the subject) The RiverPlex promised by Noble to draw 15,000 families and by Cassidy that "most, if not all. of the bonded indebtedness will be paid through the then called RecPlex, revenues. In 2001, the bonds due on 2011, were extended to 2016 or another 6 years from the original 10 year payoff plan.

Remember when Shea Soccer Stadium was once the home of the Peoria Chiefs? The land was owned by Bradley University. Two stories here. In donating the land to Bradley University, Laura Bradley had the trust written that alcohol was never to be sold on the premises. When Pete Vonachen became the driver behind the revived ball park, Pete got himself elected to thePPD.  (not a difficult accomplishment as few want to serve on a board dominated by Tim Cassidy and indirectly by Super Bonnie Noble) He was soon succeeded by his son nicknamed "Rocky". Soon the trust was broken and the sale of alcohol became permissible. Jack Heintzman, star Bradley U. athlete,who, before his death, gave me all the paperwork on this deal and this document is available for review by anyone interested.

When the Chief Baseball team located to near the riverfront, Bradley U. still owned the land (then Mienen field). A deal was made with Bradley and the PPD for Bradley to deed the land back to PPD. In return for a little cash, long spent, and 40 acres of land off Fox Rd. and Rt. 91 ( I blogged about this in the past), PPD was SUPPOSED to create a sports complex on this 40 acres. Bradley acquired a total of 161 acres for an exorbitant price of $13,000 an acre. Dunlap School district took an option to buy 40 acres to build a school. They never did and Bradley  has a tenant farmer and and a mortgage. And Louisville Slugger, thank goodness, is privately developing the complex the PPD COULD NOT AFFORD TO BUILD.

Did the JS ever write about this deal IN DETAIL? NO

Lets now review the 9000 acres PPD has guardianship over and erosion control. Only in visible areas. A few years back, Bill Rutherford (deceased) called me one day and said he wanted to show me the erosion on some of this land. It was badly eroded with no visible effort of erosion control. For those of you who do not get out on the Illinois River, you do not see the massive delta being created by soil coming off PPD land that they accepted guardianship. No money in the budget for erosion the major part of the public does not see.

Last summer, I went back to visit this eroded area. No change, just worse.

When the African Exhibit was widely touted by the PPD and the JS, it featured a new entry into Glen Oak Park with a very distinctive signage. Nothing happened and everything remains the same old. The exhibit was to include a new visitors center but the park could not afford it so Glen Barton stepped forward and paid for this center. Similar to the Riverfront Museum, attendance has never met published expectations.

I could go on but it's boring and I've blogged on all these "projections" before. Yes, we have the most interesting park in downstate Illinois and the most expensive. Ms. Noble got her 33,000 sq.ft. administration building and the board named the building in her name. I am curious of the size of the Chicago Park District Administration Building?

Now, it looks like we finally have a cost cutting governor and the national government has an $18 trillion dollar growing deficit, it will be up to the user and taxpayer to keep the PPD solvent. Maybe more Glen Bartons and folks of his wealth will continue to accomplish this apparently debit financing effort. Or let the burden of raising revenue come from the users and not retired property taxpayers.

In 2002, I predicted that financing the PPD would increase beyond expectations when I made an impossible effort to make the necessary changes to finance an ever growing PPD.


Vonster said...

Thanks, Merle.

I have never been a fan of the PPD and especially Empress Noble.

I maintain that there are a whole bunch of local office holders that should be in prison or at least out of office right now, considering the hijinks you've outlined.

David P. Jordan said...

Good report, Merle!

Anonymous said...

And Glen Barton will get his favor repaid by the downtown apartments. And didn't the city just give Peterson and 3 million dollar, no questions asked loan for the Louisville Slugger complex? I wouldn't call that "privately financed"