March 18, 2015 – The Woodridge Park District received official notice from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) suspending the Park and Recreation Facility Construction (PARC) grant previously awarded to the District in October 2014. This letter comes in response to Governor Rauner’s Executive Order #15-08 directing all state agencies to not let, award, or enter into any contract or grant that obligates the expenditure of state funds until July 1, 2015.
This suspension could not come at a worse time for the District based on the progress of the project to finalize construction bids, award contracts, and start construction this spring. In order to fulfill one of the grant program goals to initiate shovel-ready projects to create jobs, the District established an aggressive planning and construction schedule to bid the project during late winter and spring of 2015 (currently in progress) to take advantage of the ideal construction bidding environment, minimize potential construction cost escalation, finalize financing to take advantage of low interest rates, and start construction during the ideal construction season. In fact, portions of the project recently bid came in a half million dollars under budget, however construction contracts cannot be approved until the status of the PARC grant is determined.
Park District Commissioners and staff are working with legislators to educate the Governor on the long term benefits of the grant program and to convince the Governor to reinstate the PARC grant funds immediately, so that it does not jeopardize projects from moving forward. Based on last year’s notification of grant awards, projects have already been started, are scheduled to start, or have incorporated the funds into facility designs. Failure to fulfill the State’s original commitment to provide these grant funds from the dedicated funding source (Build Illinois Now!) approved by the State Legislature for capital projects may negate several years of local planning efforts to secure partnerships and alternate funding sources.
President Fred Hohnke stated, “The PARC grant program is a win-win program for the State. By making a modest investment of capital funds these construction projects help leverage additional local dollars giving the State twice the return on its investment.”
While we acknowledge the State faces challenges in its general operations, investments of dedicated PARC funds will help the State meet some of the challenges.
For example, the proposed ARC will provide dependable affordable afterschool and summer/holiday school camp programs for working families, and while the State will benefit greatly, it does not have to bear the future burden or cost of maintaining those facilities or programs.
The ARC will provide convenient and affordable access to a fitness facility that will promote health and wellness and will help reduce Medicaid and other physical and mental health care expenses for the State over the long term that are major cost drivers in the State budget.
The ARC will provide valuable recreational programs for youth and teens that will allow them to grow in a positive environment ultimately reducing youth crime and violence, consequently reducing costs in the criminal justice system.
The ARC will provide economic growth in the Janes Avenue corridor through redevelopment and new development opportunities that will increase the diversity of the village’s tax base.
The ARC will facilitate space for not-for-profit social service programs servicing residents at no operational cost to the State.
The ARC will provide recreational and fitness programs for persons with disabilities in an inclusive environment.
The ARC will generate approximately sixty full-time and part-time jobs to operate the facility in addition to providing hundreds of construction jobs to construct the facility.
The Woodridge Park District encourages everyone affected by this decision to contact the Governor’s Office to let the Governor know that the suspension of these fully-funded programs that have a proven track record of positive results is costing jobs and stalling economic growth.
Until a final determination is made on the PARC grant funding, the District will move forward to determine the final cost of the project through final bidding, determine status of other outstanding grants and energy incentives, identify scheduling impacts, and finalize options for the final phase of financing for the project all in an effort to determine the impact on the proposed facility and finalize a course of action.