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April 12, 2024

Clark Co. Park District Board stops Community Parks Grants ? –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On October 17, 2015

Clark Co., IL. (ECWd) –
First, I would like to thank the Marshall Advocate and Gary Strohm for reporting on this very important issue, and the fact that we were correct in our research. The sad part is that is appears his misguided reporting was attempting to somehow place blame on Kirk Allen and John Kraft (Edgar County Watchdogs) for somehow taking money away from local parks.
The second paragraph of the article shows how little Gary Strohm put in to researching what he was writing, as if that is surprising to anyone. Kirk Allen said nothing about these community park grants, I did. I suspect he didn’t want to credit the Edgar County Watchdogs in his paper, so I will do it for him.
Strohm also reported that we complained to the board that state law does not allow these grants, which is another lie of his in an attempt at painting us in bad light – nothing new to us, just wanted to point it out. The actual email is below, and recordings from meetings, will show that I stated state law did not allow these grants UNLESS certain conditions were met. Those conditions are explained below as well as in the email.
As for the rest of his article: For researching and informing the Clark County Park District Board of their expenditures in violation of established State Law – we are guilty! – and are proud to do our part in keeping local government accountable to the law and to the people.
Unfortunately, the Board majority consisting of Ron Stone, Terry Stepp, Glen Kneuhel, and Joe Ewing (the Chairman who cheated on the election with forged petitions making a mockery of the entire election process in Clark County) thinks by concentration on this issue, other more important issues will go unnoticed (and unreported in the Marshall Advocate).
A few weeks ago, I sent a letter (below) to the Commissioners detailing my research on the issue of the so-called “Community Parks Grants” that had been given out for several years. I pointed out the Park District Code, and how this “grant” violates the law. I also showed how they could continue to support local parks by entering into “Joint Recreational Programs” with local parks. This would not only follow the law, it would give community residents a new avenue for recreation, without having to foot the entire bill.

Section 8-18 of the Park District Code

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Section 8-18 describes how a Park District can assist financially in “joint recreational programs” for local parks. A district can develop, operate, and finance “joint” recreational programs with local parks.
The issue here, is that the majority of the board consisting of Stone, Stepp, Kheunhel, and Ewing (the fraud holding office while laughing at the voters) jumped at the chance to stop these payments so they could give their failed director a $15,000 pay raise following her fake resignation to accept the fake-job-that-never-was from Stone. OK, so some may choose to also blame the minority board members, even though they voiced opposition.
My suggestion to these local communities is to assist in developing a joint recreational program and ask the park district board to help finance it. What good is a local park if its only purpose is to sit there and get its grass mowed?
Finally, ask yourselves this question: “Why did the park district board majority immediately take up this cause when they continuously violate other sections of the Park District Code, the Election Code, the Open Meetings Act, the Gift Ban Act, the Freedom Of Information Act, and the Constitution almost on a daily basis?
This current board majority and the local paper would be better served focusing their efforts on representing the taxpayer instead of continuing attempts of blame shifting, as each and every time it has failed and only makes them look even more incompetent.

Joint Recreational Programs

Based on the article, there are items that closely resemble “recreational programs” in these local parks. Here are some that were reported in the Marshall Advocate:

  • Martinsville – ball diamonds and the playground. It would take very little to create a JOINT recreational program with their ball diamonds and their playground and the restroom facilities to support those. Think how much grass could get mowed if they had a Joint Recreational Soccer [Field] Program … Develop a written plan dealing with both of them and submit it to the Park District for their consideration, and ask them to finance and participate in it with you.
  • West Union – tennis courts and “other recreational facilities”. It would take very little to create a JOINT recreational program with tennis courts and maybe with their “other facilities”.
  • Marshall – tennis courts, SWIMMING POOL, walking tracks.  It would take very little to create a JOINT recreational program with their tennis courts, SWIMMING POOL, and other things within their city parks.

The point I am getting at here, is that these local parks have the ability to create joint recreational programs using mainly what they already have in place, request funding assistance from the park district, and use the local funds previously spent on “recreational programs” (that would get replaced with the joint funding) to perform mowing and other maintenance within their own parks. In other words – Put it in writing!
If I remember a conversation I had with Commissioner Jeff Wallace, there used to be a “similar” process for obtaining the “Community Parks Grant”, but people got lazy and started demanding the funds without any plan on its use.
Too bad Strohm didn’t do a little research prior to writing his article…

Back to the Article

Marshall and Mayor Sanders: Sanders talks about needing the funds for this and for that, but his only intent is to squeeze as many tax dollars from land owners as legally possible. If he can get a “Marshall Park District”, he can sell bonds under that entity for a new multi-million dollar pool – AND tax property owners to pay for that pool. He has no problem giving a private cemetery between $10,000 and $20,000 each year from City of Marshall public funds (in violation of law), when that money could go to their own parks or swimming pool. Of course, he could simply use the powers granted in the Illinois Municipal Code or in this Section of the IMC to provide for funds for city parks – while still part of a park district).

Townships can finance and tax for their own park maintenance: See the Township Code.

No matter what these local parks come up with in terms of a joint recreational program plan, I suspect the majority board members will vote not to participate, because they never had any intention to keep providing funds to these local parks, and our research gave them the easy out they had been searching for. The least the residents of these local parks should expect is for their local public bodies to develop a plan and force the vote with the park district on whether to participate – that will evident the majority board member’s willingness and show their true intentions.
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  • Warren J. Le Fever
    Posted at 12:50h, 18 October

    You forgot the most important part: POLITICAL ADVANTAGE. Should Marshall township and City of Marshall withdraw from the Park District, the elected officials most irritating to those holding power would be gone as well as the friendly “expendables.” For instance, Four CCPD board members: Stephanie Romero, Jeff Wallace, Terry Stepp, and Joe Ewing live in Marshall. Once Marshall pulls out of the Mill Creek Park district, they are no LONGER MEET RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS and can be replaced with “Like-minded” to those remaining in office. The public opposition will be gone as far as elected officials are concerned and those unelected attending the meetings can be ignored. GAME OVER. THE BAD GUYS WON AND THE WATCHDOGS LOST. The move was well planned and well thought out.
    As far as the Marshall City $4.55 million dollar pool wanted by members of the pool committee, the advantage is that in order to get the 5 million or so needed to complete (considering normal cost increases – particularly if oil prices rise) the project, persuading a reluctant public to accept a lifetime of added debt is easier if it all doesn’t go on the utility bills of Marshall utility users. Creating a park district would then allow a new “Marshall” park board to tax property owners and thus reduce the utility bill increase while masking the total cost to those taxed. CCPD currently has a low tax rate and knowing the taxers on the Marshall city council, the “substitute” tax rate replacing the CCPD tax will quickly be raised far above what the current CCPD rate is today. People don’t complain as much about property tax raises as they do about utility bills and that’s how their pocketbooks will be picked. THIS SCHEME WAS VERY WELL THOUGHT OUT.

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 14:41h, 18 October

      Yes, but no matter how it goes, the current board members complete their terms.