Three vying for Cary Park District board

CARY – Improving current facilities is a key issue for the three people running for the Cary Park District board.

Current board member Mike Renner, former board member Philip Stanko and newcomer Patrick Smith are vying for the two seats up for grabs.

Stanko had been on the park board for four terms, but was defeated in the last election.

“My purpose for doing it remains the same,” Stanko said. “I’ve always believed we should give something back to the community.”

He said there are projects the park district can focus on, including replacing existing playgrounds, expanding the bike trail system and connecting the Hoffman Park Bike Trail to the new bike trail along Route 31.

Stanko, who has lived in Cary for 33 years, said he believes the district needs to run a referendum on whether it should buy the Chalet Hills Golf Course, so voters can have their say.

“There seems to be a lot of interest and questions,” Stanko said. “We need to listen to the public.”

He said he hasn’t formed an opinion on whether the district should buy the foreclosed golf course.

He added the district should look at its debt and find ways to reduce it and take advantage of the existing low interest rates.

Stanko, a retired educator, gave the example of refinancing the remaining debt on the Foxford Hills Golf Course “to keep the payments as small as possible and allow the golf course to generate the revenues needed to make those payments.”

Smith, a 42-year-old local business and real estate attorney, has lived in Cary for 10 years.

“I pay more in property taxes to the park district than to the village of Cary,” Smith said. “It occurred to me we have a lot of money that goes into the park district, and the district owns a lot of assets and a lot of land.”

He said he wants to see the district assets interconnected. He said there is a park district plan to connect paths, but nothing has been done to carry it out.

Smith said the district needs to think about adding programming for seniors, such as yoga classes, as people are living longer.

“The township has done a good job picking up the slack by having those classes,” Smith said. “It’s odd for a township to offer those services while no one else is doing it.”

He also said there should be an effort to lower the cost for residents to use park district facilities.

Smith said the district needs more transparency and said he was disappointed the park district would not have a referendum on whether to buy Chalet Hills.

“If you have, in the middle of winter, 600 or 700 people saying, ‘We don’t want you to do this,’ this is an indication there could be a strong difference of opinion on the issue,” Smith said.

Renner, 49, has lived in Cary for 21 years. The vice president of Eriksson Engineering Associates has been on the park district board for 18 years.

Renner said the district needs to continue to build relationships with other units of government and share resources.

“It’s very important at this time and with the economy the way it is, taxpayers are looking for government agencies to spend their money judiciously and partner with other units of government to get the best bang for the dollar,” he said.

Renner said the district has hosted a summer day camp program at McHenry County Conservation District property. The park district also provides personnel for before- and after-school programs at District 26 schools.

Renner recently received the Mike Cassidy Community Service Award during a conference of Illinois park districts. The award is presented to a commissioner who has demonstrated examples of community service, personal integrity and ingenuity, the park district said in a news release.

There needs to be continued development of Cary Grove Park, Renner said.

The park district should develop a strategic plan and assess the desire for a fitness center, water park, new swimming pool and trail development.

“Then we figure out how to fund those projects in the strategic plan,” Renner said. “Whether it’s capital improvement funds, [or] applying for a grant.”

He said discussion on Chalet Hills is over and the board is no longer pursuing the idea of buying the golf course. He added that people who are against the purchase were accommodated and were heard at meetings.

“We were very happy to listen to them,” Renner said. “We made many accommodations to those residents to be transparent about the potential acquisition of that property.”

The election is April 9.

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