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After many starts and stops to renovate the 809 Madison Avenue building dating back several years, that project—as well as plans to build a Little League and T-ball field with all-weather turf that also will be used as a youth soccer field—will finally be completed.
Maywood Park District Executive Director Toni Dorris told the West Suburban Journal recently that state grant money totaling around $1.9 million which was released last August by Gov. Bruce Rauner—Rauner froze that money shortly after taking office in 2015—are funding these projects.
In October, 2014, a $1.62 million grant presented by then-Gov. Pat Quinn was earmarked to complete the 809 building, but then was put on hold after Rauner issued an executive order that suspended what he deemed to be nonessential state spending. A $280,000 grant through the state’s OSLAD (Open Space Land Acquisition and Development) program also was put on hold.
Even though the grant money was again made available, Dorris noted that the Park District needed to get its financial house in order before it could even consider renovating the 809 building. The Park District had to secure a loan from a bank because the grant for the 809 building is a reimbursable grant.
“We do the work and then we submit quarterly reports of what has been completed in that quarter,” Dorris explained. “As long as we stay in the guidelines of the grant, the state will reimburse the Park District, which will repay the loan.”
But when Dorris, who’s also a village trustee and a mayoral candidate, first approached the president of a bank to get the loan after taking over as Park District executive director, that bank president essentially told her “no way.”
James Hill, an accountant hired by the Park District Board after Dorris’ meeting with the bank president, laid out an austerity plan which the district has followed to the letter over the past 18 months.
“We hired Mr. Hill and he said, ‘Give me 18 months,’ ” Dorris said. “We spent the bare minimum (at the Park District). We cut staff, decreased salaries including mine, and purchased only what we needed. We did the bare minimum while still providing services to the community. We did everything but close down.”
Meanwhile, Dorris said, lobbying efforts by the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD)—along with State Sen. Kimberley Lightford and State Rep. Chris Welch—continued, leading up to Rauner re-releasing the grant money last August.
Once the Park District reached the end of the 18 months, Dorris again reached out to the same bank president who had earlier turned down the district for a loan.
“He was completely impressed,” she said. “We’re 90 percent approved with getting the funding. Our accountant asked us to stay on course with our austerity plan and he’s still telling us to do that. We’re in a much better financial position that we’ve been in in a long time. There’s actually now money in the bank.”
TIMETABLE FOR RENOVATING THE 809 BUILDING
Itasca-based Williams Architects has been retained by the Park District to provide architectural and engineering services related to the renovations of the 809 building.
“In our opinion, Toni was instrumental in not only ensuring the grant funding was approved but has also worked diligently to acquire the necessary financial backing to see the project move forward,” said Thomas G LaLonde, vice president and managing principal of Williams Architects. “We are pleased to say that through her diligent efforts the project will proceed and the Park District will finally realize their goals of providing the wonderful, much-needed additional program space for the Maywood community.”
Dorris said the target date to open the 809 building is January, 2018.
“We’ll have a brand new Park District in 2018 and this will be just the beginning,” she said.
The renovated building will include a state-of-the art meeting and conference room, along with classrooms and state-of-the-art technologies on the building’s first and second floors. The third floor will be devoted exclusively to a “teen hangout,” where village teen-agers will have access to pool tables, quiet rooms with computers, an arts room where they can put on headphones and listen to music, and sofas.
“It will be our teen-age safe haven,” Dorris said.
Dorris pointed out that Williams Architects and engineers have done a complete overview of what’s already in the building in an effort to save money. Plumbing and electrical work that was completed during previous renovations is good to go, as well as walls that were put up on the first and second floors.
“The third floor is going to be changed somewhat” since it will be for teen-agers, she said.
The $280,000 OSLAD grant will be used to develop the outside area directly behind, and just north, of the Park District building on 9th Avenue.
As was previously mentioned, a Little League and T-ball field that also will be used as a youth soccer field—complete with all-weather turf and bleachers—will be the main addition, along with an outdoor full-court basketball court. The Little League, T-ball and soccer field will be situated in the grassy area that’s just east of the current parking lot in the back of the building.
There also will be an outdoor ping pong table, an outdoor chess and checkers table, bag toss games, a picnic shelter with two picnic tables, and a one-directional parking lot. Dorris said the Community Garden will be spruced up, too. There will be a picnic area with a grill inside the garden, raised planter boxes and rain barrels.
“I encourage every resident to take part in programming that occurs at this Park District,” she said. “It will only be as strong as the residents who support it. We truly, truly need community engagement in these facilities to sustain and grow the Park District. Together we win.”