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updated: 2/8/2011 10:33 AM

Lake County Board 15 candidates differ on forest preserve

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The Republican and Democratic candidates for the Lake County Board's 15th District seat have different priorities for the county's forest preserve district.

Republican incumbent Carol Calabresa of Libertyville said the panel - which doubles as the county board - must decide whether to rebuild a golf course at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve near Highland Park. That issue has been debated for more than a decade and needs to be resolved, she said.

Her Democratic opponent, Delfino "Del" Parra, said the most pressing issue facing the forest district is financial. The forest board must look for ways to save money in its roughly $157 million annual budget, he said.

Calabresa and Parra spoke about these and other issues in a recent endorsement interview at the Daily Herald's Lake County office.

Calabresa, of Libertyville, has served on the board since 1986.

She leads an advisory committee that's been debating what to do at Fort Sheridan for about a year. The district has been struggling with the issue since acquiring the property from the U.S. Army in the 1990s.

An 18-hole course that was part of the property was torn up in 2003 ahead of the planned construction of a new course. But that plan was scuttled after costs skyrocketed.

Calabresa's committee is weighing three plans that call for nine-hole courses and public trails. It could make a recommendation to the forest board this fall.

"That probably has people's attention more than anything right at the moment," she said of the sometimes-contentious golf-course debate.

Parra, also of Libertyville, works for Diamond Lake Elementary District 76 and unsuccessfully ran for the county board in 2006.

Reducing spending should be the forest district's top priority, he said.

Parra said officials must look at pensions, staff salaries and the number of employees for possible cost savings.

And yet, he suggested hiring new employees as a way to reduce overtime costs. He did not expand on the proposal.

Parra also suggested firing landscape architects who aren't working on active construction or preserve-development projects.

"We don't have any construction going on, but we have four or five or six landscape architects not doing too much work," he said. "We are we keeping them?"

Calabresa objected to laying off architects. Whether or not actual construction is being done at the moment, such workers are busy developing master plans for many forest preserves, she said.

She strongly opposed the idea of hiring new workers to save overtime costs.

"For any of us to be considering new employees at this time is irresponsible," she said.

District 15 includes much of the Libertyville area. The seat carries a two-year term.

Green Party candidate David Serdar also will be on the ballot.