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McHenry City Council talks $70K donation for Walsh Park improvements

A donor approached McHenry officials earlier this month and offered $70,000 toward a project at Walsh Park, adjacent to the McHenry Downtown Theater. The work would include improved seating and landscaping, a brick-paved pathway, the removal of a deteriorating seawall and instillation of a new steel seawall.
A donor approached McHenry officials earlier this month and offered $70,000 toward a project at Walsh Park, adjacent to the McHenry Downtown Theater. The work would include improved seating and landscaping, a brick-paved pathway, the removal of a deteriorating seawall and instillation of a new steel seawall.

Walsh Park soon could see some improvements with the help of a local donor.

An anonymous donor approached McHenry officials this month and offered $70,000 toward a project at Walsh Park, adjacent to the McHenry Downtown Theater. The work would include improved seating and landscaping, a brick-paved pathway, the removal of a deteriorating seawall and installation of a new steel seawall.

A sculpture and mural could be included in the “Art Park” project further down the road, according to city documents.

During their Sept. 10 meeting, City Council members voted, 5-2, to accept and match the donation, but the item was brought back for new consideration Monday.

First Ward Alderman Victor Santi and 4th Ward Alderman Scott Curry both voted no on the matter Sept. 10, and the donor wanted full support, Parks and Recreation Director Bill Hobson said.

Curry said he didn’t want to accept a donation from an anonymous donor because it could pose an ethical concern. He also wanted to seek competitive bidding on the project.

Longtime resident Kit Carstens agreed to go public with the donation to gain full council support this week. Carstens is vice president of McHenry’s Riverwalk Foundation, which is tasked with developing the riverwalk to increase tourism in the city.

The design of the proposed Walsh Park improvements are consistent with plans completed by the Riverwalk Foundation, according to city documents.

But the second vote hit a snag because a more inexpensive proposal came in for the work and was not on Monday’s agenda.

The original plan quoted work on the seawall at $53,428. Hobson sought additional quotes and found a company willing to do the work for $28,600. The quote came in too late to be put on Monday’s agenda, he said.

City Council members were unable to legally vote on the matter Monday. All governmental bodies must put action items on a prepublished agenda under the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

The council likely will ratify the agreement with the new, lower quote and waive competitive bidding at its next meeting. The city likely will not have to match the donation up to $70,000 because of the lowered quote, Hobson said.

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