A heated discussion about possible improvements at the Mount Prospect Golf Club gave way to an even more terse exchange between commissioners at Wednesday night's Mount Prospect Park District Board meeting.
Tom Rayburn was the first person to address the board. He called on the park district to shelve discussions of expansive improvements to the course, citing an unfavorable economic climate and saying that a big-money project would go over poorly with residents.
"Elected officials need to step back, be a little more sensitive, and you guys need to be a little more prudent, because the well's basically dry," Rayburn said.
At the end of those statements, board president John Eilering clarified references Rayburn had made regarding the park district's debt, which Rayburn put at around $33 million. Eilering said district debt is around $23.5 million and should be going down to roughly $14 million by 2014.
He also responded to Rayburn's complaints about tax increases, stating any rate increases are largely due to a decrease in the equalized assessed value of properties and that roughly the same amount of money is being paid by taxpayers. He added that the issuance of more bonds by the park district to pay for improvements at the golf club will not lead to an increase in taxes.
Steve Kurka, who has been involved in the park district's golf committee meetings and works at the golf course, argued in favor of significant improvements. He said the last major capital improvement at the course was the installation of a sprinkler system in the 1980s.
He argued, since it was almost unanimously agreed that drainage and irrigation improvements must be made, the park should seize the opportunity to make long-lasting improvements.
"If you're going to move earth, you're going to have to shut down the golf course," Kurka said. "If you're going to do that at the tune of $2.5 million, why not sit down and figure out the best way to make this thing work for another 50 years."
Later, under the golf committee report, Commissioner Julie Caporusso discussed a meeting with Dave Esler, an architect who the committee reached out to for a second opinion. The plan hit a hitch when Esler said he wouldn't submit a proposal unless they released Greg Martin, the designer of the 4-year-old master plan for renovations at the golf club.
Martin presented to the board in April a matrix of options for the future of the golf course, ranging from "status quo" to the "master plan as presented." He also explained at that meeting that "his firm would not be interested in participating for Option #2," a plan that would just improve the drainage and irrigation and expand the park's lakes.
Commissioner Susan Walsh continuously expressed her desire for someone willing to do a narrow plan that only fixed drainage and irrigation issues, calling for the board to drop Martin and proceed with the less expensive improvements. Walsh, the top vote-getter in last April's election, ran primarily on her opposition to an expansive golf course reconstruction.
"We don't have someone who will do just an irrigation and drainage plan, and that's what we were going for to begin with," Walsh said, referring to the golf committee's requests last fall.
Many board members opposed this idea, saying that Esler will, in all likelihood, recommend improvements in addition to the drainage and irrigation replacements.
"I will tell you right now: We do irrigation, we need to do ponds," park district CEO Walter Cook said. "I don't care if you don't want to do any drainage on the rest of the course, Dave's going to proof it out for you and we'll be at $3 million."
They also expressed a reluctance to drop Martin, who was selected from a group of 10 architects to do the master plan, when they could still very well move forward with a version of his plan.
The tension reached its peak when Commissioner William Klicka, who had been silent, addressed Walsh.
"You don't understand this park district at all," Klicka said. "We never do anything (halfway). We want to do it the proper way and we fix it so we do not have to come back."
After more than 25 minutes of back-and-forth and exasperated looks, Eilering ultimately directed Caporusso and Cook to urge Esler to personally notify Martin that the board came to him for a second opinion. They indicated they hope that will meet Esler's concern about professional courtesy and that he then will submit a proposal without Martin being dropped by the board.
Still, the debate didn't end there. After a lengthy discussion regarding the district audit and debt, Walsh again accused the board of planning to move on the original master plan in the immediate future.
"We didn't say anything like that," Eilering said.
"But you didn't say you weren't going to," Walsh retorted.
The board's next meeting will be held July 25. For any item to be voted on, it must be listed on the meeting's agenda, which must be posted online at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting.