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By Mike Sandrolini
MAYWOOD | In March, Maywood Park District Executive Director Toni Dorris told the West Suburban Journal that state grant money totaling around $1.9 million was released in August, 2016, by Gov. Bruce Rauner (Rauner froze that money shortly after taking office in 2015) to fund the long-awaited renovation of the 809 Madison Street building, as well as develop the outside area directly behind, and just north, of the Park District building on 9th Avenue.
A $1.62 million grant through the state’s Park and Recreational Facility Construction (PARC) grant program—first presented in October, 2014, by then-Gov. Pat Quinn but put on hold by Rauner—will fund the 809 building renovation, while a $280,000 grant through the state’s OSLAD (Open Space Land Acquisition and Development) program will cover the costs of developing the outside area.
Dorris recently announced that construction on the outside area—which will include a Little League and T-ball field, complete with all-weather turf and bleachers that also will be used as a youth soccer field—is set to begin in June.
But the most noteworthy development, she said, is Maywood Park District has been notified by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources that it has extended the PARC grant for the 809 building through June of 2018. Dorris added that 4th District State Sen. Kimberly Lightford and 7th District Rep. Chris Welch provided assistance to obtain the extension.
“That’s exciting news because we can actually get the building completed,” she said. “I submitted a letter to the IDNR, letting them know the importance of opening this building and how it has not been productive for the community for over 15 years.”
It’s estimated that construction on the 809 building will start in September or early October, Dorris said. The Park District has until June 30, 2018, to complete the renovations, which 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 teen-agers, with pool tables, quiet rooms with computers, an arts room and sofas.
“We’ve already obtained drawings, and already have sat down with the village and what they have required,” Dorris said.
The Park District has been on an austerity plan over the past 18 months—a plan it on which it will continue—in order to secure a bank loan because the grant for the 809 building is a reimbursable grant.
“As long as we stay in the guidelines of the grant, the state will reimburse the Park District, which will repay the loan (from the bank),” Dorris explained in March.
The Park District is working on securing and finalizing a loan for the 809 building. Hinsdale Bank has already committed to funding the OSLAD grant.
“The Park District Board is looking to build a lasting relationship,” she said.
The bank told the Park District that although it’s fine to have local programming at the 809 building, the Park District, Dorris said, “should really try to solidify some more concrete, higher paying clients so that we are comfortable in paying that loan back and we don’t have to pull all taxpaying dollars from our general fund to repay the loan.”
Dorris said that the Park District has reached out to three hospitals, two universities and two trade unions to see if they will agree to put programs in the 809 building.
“I’m looking for some people who can offer programs and training classes that will be able to spend higher in a new facility. The bank is OK with that,” she said. “We will incorporate the local programming, but right now, our priority is to solidify.”
Dorris pointed out that the Park Board Commission has been meeting the third Thursday of every month since January in order to be updated on the PARC and OSLAD grants.
At the May 25 meeting, Dorris said “we had our architect, developers, the bank, everyone here to give an update to the board.”
During that meeting, Dorris, along with Hitchcock Design, provided the board with an update on storm sewers that need to be replaced before construction on the outside area begins.
“Our storm sewers have been collapsed for a long time,” Dorris said. “In an effort to move forward, they (the storm sewers) must be corrected first.”
DORRIS LEAVING PARK DISTRICT
Dorris, however, won’t be around when the actual renovation on the 809 building gets under way. Her one-year contract expires in July and she is not seeking to have it extended. She said she will be working in the health care field after her contract expires.
The Maywood Park District is currently conducting a search for her replacement.
“I am excited, along with the Board Commission, in hiring the new executive director who will continue to move this Park District forward for the people of Maywood,” she said. “Although I won’t be at the district, I will be open and willing to assist in any way I can.”