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updated: 9/21/2011 4:12 PM

Controversial Wheaton park project bids way over budget

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  • New pavement is being installed on South Main Street by Kelly Park in Wheaton.

       New pavement is being installed on South Main Street by Kelly Park in Wheaton.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • A stretch of South Main Street by Kelly Park in Wheaton. The park renovation has been opposed by neighbors.

       A stretch of South Main Street by Kelly Park in Wheaton. The park renovation has been opposed by neighbors.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

 
 

Wheaton park officials say bids for the Kelly Park project came in about 26 percent over budget, prompting a new round of criticisms from nearby residents.

Board President Ray Morrill said the delay in approving the Kelly Park project, which was sent back to committee, does not indicate its future is in jeopardy.

"This project is not dead. It will happen," Morrill said Wednesday. "We are just going to see if (contractors) are willing to come down or if we can do some things in-house to get the cost down."

The project, which neighbors have opposed every step of the way, was originally expected to cost $754,000, with half of that tab getting picked up by a state grant. However, the bids put the project's price tag at $947,000 and reduced the grant by roughly $20,000.

That would put the district on the hook for nearly $600,000.

The plans include a new 70-by-120-foot ice rink as well as a new shelter, new bicycle parking, rain garden and multisport courts. But Morrill said removing some of those aspects remains an option as long as it does not affect the park district's grant application.

The matter had been placed on Wednesday's agenda, but Morrill removed it a day earlier.

"It's such a large project and it has had such controversy that I wanted to make sure we took the time to take a look at what it is we had," he said. "I want to make sure that when we make the decision, we feel comfortable with the decision."

The building and grounds committee, which consists of commissioners Phil Luetkehans and John Kelly, will review the bids. Morrill said he expects a recommendation to follow soon after and a vote on the work sometime next month.

Neighbors of the busy 17-acre park, 1100 S. Main St., have had numerous complaints about the project since it started moving forward. Among them was a lack of communication from the park district and the added amenities.

One of the project's most outspoken critics, Sue Kerby, who lives about one block away, said the latest financial news is yet another reason to oppose it. She said the project is unnecessary because, even without the amenities, the park remains popular with residents throughout the district.

"What a shame that the project isn't in jeopardy," she said. "This park is near and dear to everyone in the neighborhood and is an extremely busy park already. It is constantly crowded and in a good way."

If bids come through, Morrill said the park board could schedule a special meeting in early October. If so, work on the project would likely begin in the fall. However, if the board instead votes on the bids at its Oct. 19 meeting, the work may be delayed until the spring, Morrill said.

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