Naperville wants 'Smart Park donation,' not club member recognition

Naperville City Council members who don't want some club leaders' names on a plaque at a potential "Smart Park" almost held up acceptance of a $200,000 donation to fund the park.

But after much discussion Tuesday, council members put their critiques into the open and accepted the money, pending negotiation to address the issue of the plaque with names and other concerns.

Naperville Jaycees have offered to donate $200,000 during the next 10 years to fund an outdoor area with seating, shade, power and Wi-Fi where people can plug in and check email. The feature, which tentatively will be called "Naperville Jaycees Smart Park," is planned for a plaza outside the Naperville municipal center along the Riverwalk.

But among other conditions in an agreement presented to the council, the Jaycees want a plaque listing the names of club officers and directors who were in office when the group approved the pact.

"I don't want to see names on a plaque. It's not your park; it's a community park. You're a community partner," council member Paul Hinterlong said. "I don't want to see names start appearing and people taking credit."

Concerns about the plaque naming Jaycees leaders surfaced after a few council members questioned whether the Wi-Fi park is needed. The idea has been met with excitement since Mayor Steve Chirico publicized it during his State of the City address in March.

But on Tuesday, council members John Krummen, Becky Anderson and Rebecca Boyd-Obarski said they don't see the purpose, as people who work on mobile devices can do so from anywhere and don't need a defined space.

Chirico disagreed. He said he has secured $500,000 in donations from people and organizations to fund the $400,000 park and create a reserve fund for maintenance.

"They wouldn't spend their money if they didn't want it," he said.

Park operations also would be funded with solar panels atop the municipal center, which would be expected to generate $5,000 each year.

The park, if designed and approved, would be a draw for younger workers, Jaycees President Jim Groat said.

"We are now providing a nice amenity for people who do telecommute and work from home," Groat said. "That does have value and drive millennials."

So when some council members wavered and wanted to delay approval of the Jaycees donation, Chirico pushed for a decision.

"It could be an interesting outcome if Naperville becomes likely the first community to turn down a privately funded park," Chirico said.

The council approved the donation by a 7-1 vote with Krummen in opposition and council member Judith Brodhead absent. The city and the Jaycees now will iron out details about topics such as brick pavers, signage and marketing at the future space.

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