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Sycamore park commissioners to consider referendum

District commissioners to vote on asking voters for up to $9M in fall

Published: Friday, July 18, 2014 10:03 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 18, 2014 10:33 p.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – Theresa Beck says she doesn’t believe Sycamore needs more parks or amenities than it already has.

“I think there’s plenty of parks,” Beck said while walking around Sycamore Park on Friday. “But then again, my kids are grown. I don’t think we need to spend money on more.”

It’s a question all Sycamore voters likely will consider in November: Should property owners pay more in taxes so the park district can borrow up to $9 million for projects outlined in the park district’s Vision 2020 plan?

On Tuesday, park commissioners will vote on placing a referendum on the November ballot which, if voters approve it, would allow for a property tax rate increase of 18 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value. The increase would cost the owner of a $154,000 home who claims the homestead exemption about $81 a year in additional property tax. Park officials say $154,000 is the average home value in the district.

“We’re hopeful; we tried to listen to the public on what they wanted,” Park Board President Ted Strack said. “Right now the focus is just to get the word out to as many people as we can, so when they go to the ballot box they are armed with the best information to make a decision.”

The Vision 2020 plan includes creating new amenities, with the largest project being a 22,400-square-foot community center for Sycamore residents. During a June 24 park board meeting, commissioners approved plans for the general obligation bonds so the park district leaders have the authority to sell the bonds if the referendum passes.

Earlier this year, the park district bought 25 acres across Airport Road from its sports complex where it plans to build several of the new amenities, including the community center. Unlike most of the other park property, it is not in a floodplain and so there are far fewer restrictions on what can be built there.

All of the proposed projects are estimated to cost almost $13 million, and park officials also have been seeking private donations and applying for federal and state grants to fund some of their plans.

Dan Gibble, park district executive director, said they have applied for a $2.5 million grant that would be used to construct the community center. However, they won’t find out if they received it until late fall or early winter.

Gibble said most residents are inquisitive about the cost of the project and when it’s going to begin. Gibble said they have a rough timeline laid out in their plan, but the completion of projects really depends on when and how much funding is received.

Others have been curious about why there is no money in the plan for the Sycamore Pool.

“What our board has decided is there is still some life in our pool,” Gibble said. “This plan takes us through 2020.”

Gibble said the seven projects laid out in Vision 2020 – a community center, sled hill, dog park, splash pad, trail connections, sports complex improvements and expansions, and replacing the failing golf irrigation – are considered the board’s highest priorities.

Overall, it sounded attractive to Greg Betzel of Sycamore, who was visiting Sycamore Park on Airport Road on Friday.

“The more [amenities], the better,” said Betzel. “It’s important to give kids something more to do.”

Strack said Trailblazers for Sycamore Parks, a group of about 30 residents, has been working to promote the passage of the referendum.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to the community,” Strack said. “If they want [the changes], that’s fantastic. If they don’t, it’s their money, their town. It’s their decision, not ours. The community has to decide if it’s worthwhile for their town.”

If you go

What: Sycamore Park District Board Meeting

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Park District Maintenance Building, 435 Airport Road

More info

For  information about the Vision 2020 plan, visit http://shawurl.com/1alh.

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