Tuesday, November 03, 2015

A Noble Exit

Peoria Park Board Superintendent Bonnie Noble has announced that she will be vacating her position sometime in 2016.To add to my enemies list I will point out that her leaving may be influenced by these following facts: The park will be losing somewhere around a quarter million dollars this year, depending on which set of books are made public. At a recent board meeting, those in attendance heard that the expected golf deficit next year will show an approximate $800,000.00 deficit. This, despite the closing of the popular Donovan course and converting it into some type of wildlife sanctuary. While the park brags of owning 9500 acres of land, there appears to be no money for erosion control. An example is my efforts to get the park to build a berm to stop the erosion around the south side of the hard surface tennis courts at Glen Oak. A feeble effort was made to do so, but the erosion is worse than before. A second example is the growing delta in the Illinois River as topsoil from park owned land as being the major source of erosion. Mrs. Noble point out that one or her major accomplishments is the RiverPlex originally named the WreckPlex by many. The 10 year loan to pay off the loan to build the RiverPlex adjacent to the troublesome Taft Homes and in the Illinois River flood zone and in competition to the private sector, was extended to 16 years as reported by the JS and to my knowledge, the note may still have a balance due. The park budget is somewhere between $41-45 million, the largest of the next five downstate park budgets combined.Mrs. Noble points out the many awards the park has won over the years, including the RiverPlex, but never once mentions that the facility has been a money losing pit having a major impact on other park resources. Under Mrs. Noble's direction, $27 million was spent to build a new African Zoo with a large sign off Prospect so designating the site. This well publicized sign was never built and the promised alteration to the entry off Prospect never happened. When funds were lacking for new offices, souvenir center and ticket sales, the Glen Barton family stepped in to pay for this structure. Plans for another $100 million plus expansion in the area never happened. Park headquarters, formerly housed in the old Pavilion, is home to the Peoria Playhouse group but the park still owns the Pavilion and is responsible for it's maintenance. While Park headquarters are now in the 33,000 sq. ft. former Lakeview Museum, the park still owns and maintains the old District Highway Headquarters on Knoxville purchased from the State of Illinois for one dollar. This site was publicized as being the next park headquarter but the space and design of the building caused Mrs. Noble to bypass it in favor of the abandoned Lakeview Museum building. With the new trail and the bridge over Knonxille, the halt in the flow of grant money from a near bankrupt State of Illinois, plus the decline of grant money from the national government, Caterpillar's slide in sales and postponement of the new downtown headquarters, it will be interesting to see what fee increases and taxes are required to support all of Mrs. Noble's mostly completed projects. I also point out that to my knowledge, prior Superintendents were unpaid volunteers. Approximately 5 years ago, the JS reported that Superintendent Noble's salary was around $125,000 a year plus perks and a pension. I applaud Mrs. Nobles accomplishments; she was often called Queen Bonnie even by the JS as she dominated the Board and Board president. But for many of us, we believe it is time for her to retire. A competent new Superintendent can accomplish a lot with $40 plus million available Again, I apologize for no paragraphs but my software evidently won't permit them.

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