Share |

Commons Conundrum

This is being written to put recent events into context and provide history regarding the Commons. The Park District continues to negotiate with the School District regarding the Commons agreement.

Unfortunately, two former Park District commissioners, the first is one of the founding commissioners who served for 30 years and the second is a prominent local prosecuting attorney, have been distributing inaccurate information that has complicated the situation. These two individuals were involved in increasing the levy by a nickel in 2009 and in the creation of the 2013 version of the Commons Agreement.

The attorney has recently requested a laundry list of documents relating to the Commons under the Freedom of Information Act, including emails. As result of the search for Commons-related emails, the Park District discovered a series of emails in 2013 that also involved a current member of the VISD board.

In his 2013 email, the attorney states “We have followed a zero/based budget approach this year and it’s time to apply it to the Commons. I think that a system where users contact VISD directly may be a better approach. VISD can provide access and charge fees to use the facilities.” He goes on to state in a subsequent email, “With no Commons, we instantly save $129k out of our budget ($100k plus no need for access/scheduling staff). With that money, we could finance lights at VES to allow nighttime practices….. There is no way that VISD WOULD/COULD bar soccer, lacrosse, baseball, wrestling, basketball, theater, dance, etc. from the campus.” The emails contain no mention of the supposed nickel for the Commons, or breaking trust with the public.

So exactly why was the Commons agreement renewed. In an email, less than a month later, to all the park district commissioners, it was noted that the school board chairman “has refused to sign the assignment allowing us to apply for the (water) permit so we cannot water (VES) until he does so.… Jason and Mike are deeply concerned about the condition of the grass as it is, and a warm weekend, with no water, could potentially cause damage.... My understanding of the (chairman’s) position is that he wants written statements from the five Park District commissioners agreeing to the $100,000 payment surrounding the Commons [before he will allow assignment of the water share].”  

As is evident, our questioning the cost of the Commons is not a recent event. Unlike the 2013 Park District Board, your current Park Board has never suggested the Commons Agreement should be ended. The question always has been how much, if any, VPD will pay VISD, and whether it’s appropriate for VPD to pay anything, given that no other park district has such an arrangement.  The Park Board continues to strive to do what is best for the entire community. For those seeking additional details, copies of the emails referenced above have been posted to the Park District website.