The following letter was published in last week's issue of the Gazette.
To the editor:
Prior to the holidays, the village board began consideration of moving the Recreation Department offices to Gouveia Park. This is a deeply flawed proposal. Its negatives far outweigh its benefits.
In recommending the shift, the Recreation Advisory Committee cites “upgrading the park with possible playground equipment and improve/extend trails within the property” as reasons to move forward. Both of these objectives can be readily accomplished without having the Rec Dept. offices on site.
The RAC also suggests the use of 1-2 classrooms in the house and the adjacent “hut” for Rec Dept. programs. There are also the rather unspecific claims that moving the offices will “promote the park” and “utilize the land for possible programming.” While it is not clear exactly what this means, it is equally unclear how transfer of the office will accomplish either of these objectives.
On the other side, there are several cogent arguments against making the change.
1. Convenience: The location of Gouveia Park is inconvenient to the center of the village. Moving the Rec Dept. offices to Gouveia will require that everyone visiting them make a more than 3 mile round trip drive (Municipal Bldg. to Gouveia parking lot) to get a Rec pass, obtain a brochure or registration sheet, enroll in any of the Rec Dept. programs, or conduct any other business with the department. Many residents currently combine such a visit with other business in the village making the drive to Gouveia a real inconvenience in an era when time is at a premium for many families. In addition, it will become more difficult for Rec Dept. staff to interact with other village officials and employees.
So, too, for those attending any Rec Dept. programs at Gouveia that are currently conducted at the Municipal Building. This will be an especial burden on seniors who will have to make the long walk from the parking lot to the house either along the drive or over the very uneven terrain of the park. And, of course, there are many seniors who no longer drive, making a trip to Gouveia all that more difficult, and perhaps, impossible.
2. Sustainability: As a member of the Sustainability Committee, I am well aware of the many actions taken and contemplated by the village to reduce our carbon footprint. However, moving the offices will have exactly the opposite effect. It will add hundreds, if not thousands, of additional automobile miles, and the greenhouse gases they generate, each year to our current situation. While, at first glance, this may not appear to be a significant argument, in light of the recent reports on climate change from the United Nations and the federal government, perhaps it is.
3. Capital Costs: The information provided with the proposal quotes the costs necessary to make the house available for “public use” at about $20,000. The bases for these estimates are not presented. Nor is it clear that the specified improvements will be adequate to create efficient offices and classrooms appropriate for Rec Dept. programs.
In light of previous village board cost estimates made for Gouveia improvements (see Estimated Costs and Revenue, 1/14/2015), which proved to be totally fallacious, one must question these estimates as well. You will recall the initial estimate of $12,000 for the Driveway/Entrance/Parking Lot Improvements that somehow morphed into more than $218,000 when the work was actually contracted.
And on that note, why is it necessary to spend another $4,000 on “Entrance Road Repair” when the road was installed only a couple of years ago?
If the Gouveia house is to be used for village offices as well as for Rec Dept. programs, it (and the “hut” if that is also used) will have to meet the standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The 2015 cost estimate specified $110,000 for making the house and bathroom ADA compliant, yet these, undoubtedly underestimated, costs are absent from the current estimates.
There is also a question regarding whether the current water supply and sewerage at the house will be adequate for the large number of people who will be using the facility if the offices and programs are moved. Will there be enough bathrooms for the expected usage? These issues must also be fully evaluated before moving forward.
4. Operating Costs: Use of the house for offices and programs will require that it, and the adjacent “hut,” if that is also used for programs, be heated and cooled twelve months a year, significantly increasing operating costs (and greenhouse gas emissions) with no reduction for facilities not used in the Municipal Building. There will also be added costs for maintenance, cleaning, etc., due to the increased volume of people using the facility.
It would also be useful to know exactly how much we have spent and are spending on Gouveia, whether those funds are coming from the trust fund or the village treasury, and how much remains in the trust fund.
Thus, moving the Rec Dept. offices and programs to Gouveia will result in little or no benefit to the community while imposing great inconvenience on village residents, especially seniors, and significantly expanding the costs to taxpayers.
The Recreation Department performance in recent years has been no less than outstanding, especially with regard to seniors and children, and it would be imprudent, at best, to change its operations in any way without the certainty of well-defined, tangible benefits to the community.
I fully understand that it has been an extreme challenge to this and previous boards to identify practical uses for Gouveia Park, and especially the house, in order to justify its acceptance a few years ago. An action I personally feel was an egregious error at the time; a belief that has been further demonstrated in the years since.
Many promises have been made for the benefits accruing to the citizens of the village from acceptance of the property, at the time it was acquired and in subsequent years. None of these has come to fruition.
The 2015 cost/revenue estimate promises, in Year 4 (2018-2019) and beyond, annual revenues of $46,500 to the village from nearly 50 events held on the property plus rental income. The trust fund was projected to throw off an additional $40,000 in interest for total annual revenue of $86,500 and a net profit of over $27,000. Has any of this been realized? I think not.
During the 2017 village campaign, several of the candidates, including some who currently sit on the board, called for the reappointment of a committee to study potential uses of the property. This never happened. Much has changed and we have learned a great deal since the original committee reported in January 2015. Another look is well warranted before any major actions are taken for the park.
Joel E. Gingold