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Sycamore Park District future set for public hearing

Published: Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – The Sycamore Park District will conduct a public hearing next month on its short-term strategy.

The 10-goal, short-term plan outlines a strategy for the park district to reduce its budget deficit in the next two years by reducing staff, cutting budgets so each department realizes a 25 percent reserve growth in the next two years, overhauling golf course operations and finding methods to make the Midwest Museum of Natural History cost neutral.

Specific goals include making more golf course employees part time, reducing the clubhouse inventory, reducing parks and pool operation expenses by 10 percent, creating more programs and reaching out to the community with events such as neighborhood cookouts in parks and free event days.

The public hearing on the proposed plan will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at the board meeting room on 940 E. State St. A draft of the short-term plan will be posted on the district’s website this week.

“Before we talk about any major projects that are going to require more resources than we have, we have to make sure our budget is in order,” said Dan Gibble, executive director of the park district. “The [short-term] plan allows us to put pieces in place.”

The short-term plan is designed to prepare the park district for its Vision 2020 Strategic Plan, which will be crafted by a new 21-member committee and address major projects such as replacing the pool and building a new community center.

A survey conducted by an independent firm on the park district’s behalf showed residents believed the top four priorities were improving existing parks, developing walking and biking trails, building a new community center and building a new pool.

The committee is made up of park district board members, business owners such as Tim Suter and Ed Kuhn, students, residents and city employees. The committee also will hold multiple public hearings during the discussion and planning process to include as much feedback as possible.

“I think we have a very good group of individuals that will give us perspective from all areas,” Gibble said. “And because the group isn’t going to be operating in a vacuum, there will be more opportunities for public input.”

The Sycamore Park District also welcomed a new board member in Bill Kroeger, who replaced the retiring John Owens during the October meeting. Kroeger will fill the position until April 2013, when the remaining two years of Owens’ term will be filled by election.

Kroeger, who previously ran for the park district board, was chosen by board members after they interviewed three candidates.

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