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posted: 10/13/2012 8:00 AM

Group forms to back Arlington Heights parks referendum

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  • Recreation Park is one of several Arlington Heights Park District facilities that would undergo significant renovations if a $39 million referendum is approved next month. A citizens group recently launched an effort encouraging voters to back the measure.

       Recreation Park is one of several Arlington Heights Park District facilities that would undergo significant renovations if a $39 million referendum is approved next month. A citizens group recently launched an effort encouraging voters to back the measure.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
 

With support from parents and residents across town, one Arlington Heights man is trying to garner support for the $39 million park district tax increase proposed in a Nov. 6 ballot referendum.

Tim Gelinas created Arlington Heights People for Our Parks, a group of residents encouraging others to vote "Yes" on the proposal next month.

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"We utilize the park district every single day," said Gelinas, who with his wife and two young children lives near Recreation Park.

Gelinas, who said this is the first time he's become involved with anything political, is working with parents at each elementary school in Arlington Heights to spread the word through email lists and fliers. He said he has an e-mail list of about 200 people and messages get forwarded to other groups from there.

The referendum comes after voters rejected a larger $48 million proposal in March. The $39 million would fund an enhanced walking path at Lake Arlington, major overhauls to accessibility and program space at Camelot, Frontier, Heritage, Olympic and Recreation parks, and more, Arlington Heights Park District officials say.

If voters approve the bond issue, a resident with a $300,000 home would see an average property tax increase of $71 over the next 25 years, according to park district calculations. The cost to the taxpayers will be less in the first few years, however, about $26 on average, while residents finish paying off bonds issued in 2000, Scholten said.

Opponents have said the project is too large and expensive, and they don't believe there is a need to expand parks.

But Gelinas said he has tried to sign his children up for classes or programs that are already full.

After the March referendum, Gelinas said he spoke with many residents who didn't realize they needed to vote for it or didn't have all the information about the proposal.

The park district launched an aggressive informational campaign last month, called "Your Voice, Your Choice," which includes public meetings, a new website and direct mailings to registered voters, said Executive Director Steve Scholten.

The district and supporters have said an important part of the debate is making sure everyone has the correct information about how much the proposal will cost.

"We really think it's important for the public to have accurate information," said resident Chris D'Alessandro. "Some local residents have noticed that, intentionally or not, park district opponents are spreading misinformation. Unless voters take the time to do some fact checking they might get confused by the opponents comparing apples to oranges and posting really inaccurate dollar amounts online."

"It's amazing to me the amount of information that gets out that is just flat out wrong and people form opinions based off that," Gelinas said. "I want to get people educated and out to vote."

There are still nine community information meetings being held by the park district before Election Day. Meetings will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15, Wednesday, Oct. 17, Wednesday, Oct. 24, and Thursday, Nov. 1, at Olympic; Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Camelot; Thursday, Oct. 18, at Heritage; Thursday, Oct. 25, at Frontier; Monday, Oct. 29, at Recreation Park; and at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at Pioneer.

"I'm willing to pay more for the parks because of how much I utilize them," Gelinas said. "Every dollar is precious, but the return I'm seeing on this plan in my opinion, is worth three times what they're asking."

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