By Ted Schnell • BocaJump | Thursday, March 8, 2012
You might say there was some growling about the idea as it was discussed by the Elgin City Council on Wednesday night. But in the end, the fur did not fly, and the council approved a partnership with two area park districts to create a dog park on the city’s eastern edge.
Elgin and the Hoffman Estates Park District each will contribute $53,865 and the Streamwood Park District will pay $25,270 toward the $133,000 dog park that will occupy about four acres of land in Hoffman Estates’ Canterbury Park South. The park is south of Hoffman Estates and is next to Cobbler’s Crossing subdivision on Elgin’s East Side.
The City Council’s 4-1 vote on the project — council members Anna Moeller and Robert Gilliam were absent — came after Councilman John Prigge raised questions about the expenditure in light of the economic conditions. Prigge cast the sole dissenting vote.
Prigge questioned whether a dog park really could be considered a core service of the city, describing the project as more of a want than a need. He said that it was the kind of project which should be built in better times, such as when riverboat revenues were coming in at much higher levels. But, given the recession and a tough budget season that included city layoffs, Prigge said he did not believe it was appropriate.
“In this Great Recession, it might be better to say, ‘Not now,’” he told the council, adding the money might be better spent for identified needs in Lords Park or Wing Park. After the council meeting, Prigge expressed concern about the playground equipment in those parks, which may not be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a situation the city may be forced to correct.
Prigge went on to question the City Council’s own spending habits since December or January, saying the council has approved $1.6 million for “non-core” services uses. Specifically, he mentioned the incentives the city has handed out in that time, as well as the money the city is spending to renovate the Eastside Recreation Center. He added that the total amount was about the same level of funding the city saved with staff buyouts and layoffs made in late January.
His comments sparked a response from Councilman John Steffen. “What you consider a non-core issue others would consider a core issue,” he said. “We’ve had a committee looking at a dog park for several years, so this is an identified need.”
Steffen also took exception to Prigge’s comparison of the amount spent with the amount saved via staff reductions, pointing out the two were not connected. In fact, he said, some of the monies spent — such as those on the Eastside Recreation Center — were grants for specific projects.
Councilwoman Tish Powell also noted the money the city is spending on the dog park comes from Elgin’s park development fund — that’s cash that must be used on capital expenses such as new parks or items like the dog park. They cannot be used for general park maintenance, she said.
The project has been in the works since August, and will serve mostly Elgin residents and those living on Hoffman Estates’ West Side, as well as a smaller number of Streamwood Park District residents. The Hoffman Estates Park District will maintain the park.
The park must be operated under the Cook County dog park regulations. Users will have to register their dogs with the Hoffman Estates Park District and pay the annual user fee, which for the first year will be $49 for residents of Elgin and the Hoffman Estates and Streamwood park districts, and $69 for nonresidents. The Hoffman Estates Park District will set user fees annually.The park is expected to open in late summer.