COLLABORATING WITH THE PARK DISTRICT

As you know, the City Council and I have prioritized collaboration with our sister governments as an immediate goal. Collaboration helps to reduce costs to residents, enhances services, improves the management of our tight resources during these challenging times as well as in the future, and encourages communication. We all benefit and to achieve this goal takes time, mutual interest, and analysis as well as discussion. We are on our way!

Last Wednesday night, the City Council and the Park District Board held a joint meeting to discuss our shared goals. We are also planning meetings with the Highland Park Public Library, Township High School District 113 and North Shore School District 112 for the same purpose.

During last week’s meeting, the City Council and Park District Board as well as senior staff members brainstormed and discussed the following:

  • Future use of the Highland Park Country Club (HPCC) and golf needs in Highland Park (do we need two public golf courses?)
  • Other service needs and opportunities (senior and youth services)
  • Storm water management
  • School district and community athletic facility needs
  • Open land preservation
  • Maintenance and operational responsibilities

We agreed that there are three major areas of potential partnership and prioritized work goals as listed below:

  1. The disposition of the Highland Park Country Club (HPCC), currently owned by the City, but scheduled to be transferred to the Park District in 2014
  2. Short-term day-to-day operational efficiencies
  3. Long-term capital improvement plans

The disposition and future use of the HPCC was put at the top of the list as it will significantly drive much of the Park District’s other financial decision-making, specifically long-term capital planning.

A joint HPCC work group was created to:

  1. Clarify the contractual relationship between the City and the Park District
  2. Begin discussions and develop a working plan concerning the disposition of the HPCC in 2014
  3. Identify future uses including potential collaboration with the School Districts

The HPCC Work Group will be comprised of Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mandel, Park District Board Member Cal Bernstein, Park District Board President Scott Meyers, Acting City Manager Patrick Brennan, Park District Executive Director Liza McElroy and me. Work Group meetings will be held in January, February and March, with a report back to our respective groups at the end of March.   All of these meetings will be open to the public and dates will be posted on the City and Park District websites.

We also asked that the short-term day-to-day operational efficiencies be analyzed by our administrative teams with further discussions planned in the near-term. Our respective staffs are conversant with these elements and will be able to clearly identify and direct those sharing opportunities.

Throughout the consideration of the HPCC and short-term efficiencies, both governing bodies will be mindful of potential long-term partnerships. In addition, our staffs will research how other cities successfully manage communications between independent governing bodies within one city so that we can apply best practices as we move forward.

I know that we all left Wednesday night’s meeting energized by our initial discussion and the potential for progress that lies ahead.  We are eager to work together and to find ways to meet the needs of our community as cost-effectively as possible.  I will keep you updated and hope that you will join our discussion!

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