The issue of how the Bartlett Park District is performing overall spurs different responses from the three candidates seeking two open seats on the park board.
The two incumbents, Ted Lewis and Jim Mansfield, said they don’t see any unmet needs in the park district and generally think things are operating smoothly.
Challenger Wayne Schwartz, however, said the park district overstepped its bounds with the purchase of Villa Olivia and needs to rein in spending to work within its current budget.
The retiree said the park district should reexamine its ownership of the golf course, banquet facility and ski slope, as well as the Apple Orchard Golf Course. He also said the 2010 referendum, in which voters approved spending $18 million to buy and renovate Villa Olivia and upgrade the Bartlett Aquatic Center, wasn’t presented clearly or far enough in advance.
“I don’t think the park district should be in the business of owning a private business and then turn to the taxpayers to pay for equipment and overhead,” Schwartz, 61, said. “For the amount of taxes I pay, I get little in return.”
Schwartz said he supports freezing the tax levy and making programs and amenities such as the indoor walking track free, or at least more affordable. He’d also like to see the park district broken into seven zones so that each is represented by a commissioner.
Disagreeing with Schwartz is incumbent Ted Lewis, an attorney who was elected to the board 30 years ago. He said the park district has done a good job responding to Bartlett’s sizable growth and the demands of its citizens.
Lewis said the park district made the most of the $18 million referendum. Villa Olivia now has a new chair lift, ski lodge, tow ropes, kitchen and interior. And swimmers, he said, will enjoy the aquatic center’s new lazy river, zip line and water slides. He also pointed to the relatively new dog park, skate park and Beaver Pond renovations.
“When I started, all we had was an old subdivision pool and no community center,” Lewis, 70, said. “Now, those are state-of-the-art facilities, we’re the only park district around that has skiing and we work extremely well with other agencies.”
Jim Mansfield, a plumber who defeated four other candidates in 2009 to win a 4-year term, said he’ll keep an open mind but doesn’t see any additional open space for the park district to acquire. He also didn’t identity any program he’d support eliminating, saying they pay for themselves through registration fees.
He pointed to two outdoor recreation grants from the state and twice being named a National Recreation and Park Association Gold Medal Finalist as proof of the park district’s good work.
“There’s always something that can be better, but we’re constantly making improvements and have a great staff,” said Mansfield, 49, who supported the 2010 referendum. “We try to get the best value for our residents.”
The winners will serve a 6-year term.
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