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updated: 3/21/2011 5:44 PM

2 seeking Geneva parks seat talk priorities, spending

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  • Susan Vander Veen

    Susan Vander Veen

  • Sherry O'Berry

    Sherry O'Berry


Geneva Park District board candidate Sherry O'Berry, 49, says she wants to bring "a fresh perspective and fresh energy" to the Geneva park board.

Incumbent Commissioner Susan Vander Veen, 55, tells voters, "You don't have to choose between fresh ideas and experience." The fresh ideas don't just come from her own head; they come from Geneva Park District residents, via formal surveys and other communication, she said.

The two are seeking one 6-year term on the board. They both spoke at a Geneva TaxFACTS-sponsored forum recently.

Vander Veen, the board's president, was elected in 1999. She believes her experience as a landscape architect benefits the board when it comes to designing projects such as the Butterfly House.

Vander Veen also said she is proud of the AA+ bond rating given to it recently by Standard & Poor's. "Under these economic times, we have been able to keep our budget balanced while offering high-quality programs," she said.

O'Berry promised to keep a sharp eye on finances. "All park board members should treat park board funds as you would your own money and make sure" it is well-spent, she said. O'Berry is a homemaker and former teacher.

Vander Veen says she found it surprising that, in a recent survey of residents, 63 percent of respondents said they were willing to pay more for the recreation they believe their family needs. "People value our district and are willing to pay for what we give them," she said.

O'Berry defended the district's practice of borrowing money to pay for capital projects. "Sometimes necessary expenditures can't be paid with existing revenues," she said. "I would make sure any requests were thoroughly analyzed and that the benefits outweigh the costs."

Addressing a question submitted by TaxFACTS, both agreed building a dog park in Geneva should be low on a priority list.

Waving a copy of the survey results, Vander Veen said a dog park was favored by only 24 percent. "That is not a huge number. Couple that with the fact there are dog parks in the surrounding communities (to go to) ... this indicates to me that at this time it is not a high priority and probably not the best use of tax dollars."

O'Berry said the logistics of establishing and running a park, and the costs, would have to be evaluated.

Both also supported continuing a cooperative program with the Geneva school district, such as the Kids Zone after-school care program.

And O'Berry, in a Daily Herald questionnaire, said she would like the district to offer more team sports for middle-schoolers who aren't on club or school teams, to promote physical activity.