When five Marengo residents heard the Marengo Park District was struggling financially, they decided to take action.
Marengo residents, Aimee Ritter, Becky Olson, Laura DiMaria, Bobbi Peters and Suzanne Yeager started the Marengo Park Foundation. The foundation was started to help bring community awareness and will also act as a fundraising organization for the park district, Ritter said.
“We all have children and have had different connections with the park district,” Ritter said. “Right now, the way things are, they’re struggling financially. We did not want to see the park be put to the side. We are getting together to make some improvements and needed repairs. The pool right now is the main focus. After the pool is up and running at the end of May, we will work towards other issues.”
Steve Mortenson, Commissioner for the Marengo Park District, said the park district will be providing the foundation with, “a wish list.” “Basically, right now, we need to provide them with a wish list of things that we need or want to accomplish; and they can determine whether or not they can make that work,” Mortenson said. He said tax revenue for the park has decreased.
“Our base is actually dropping this year by almost $95,000 of what we would have had the previous year to operate with,” Mortenson said. “That ties in to covering all of our expenses as well. So, we’ve had to make some critical decisions.”
As part of the cutbacks, the park district decided to eliminate the daycare program on February 4, 2011.
“You need volume of participants to make that program work, and it just wasn’t there,” Mortenson said.
Jackie Miller, Administrative Assistant to the Marengo Park District Board, said the park district is still operating the preschool.
“We’re completing that [this year]; and we’ll have to evaluate it and determine if we can offer that again next year,” Mortenson said.
Former Executive Director of the Marengo Park District, Denise Anderson, was also let go in March 2011, due to financial cutbacks. Mortenson said that the park district board is, “not looking to hire a new director at this time.”
“Denise did a very good job for what she could do,” he said. “Unfortunately, because of the economics of the park, we couldn’t [financially afford to] sustain her. She did the best she could do with what she had to work with.”
As for the pool expenses, Mortenson said that with the park foundation being formed, “they are going to help out tremendously with the pool.”
“We have the funds to start it and operate it; but if there’s a loss at the end of the season, we’ve got to figure out how to cover it,” he said. “There’s just not enough revenue between taxes and programs to [currently] cover it.” Expenses to run the pool last year totaled $87,000, Mortenson said.
“Park passes last year generated about $40,000, including swim lessons and gate receipts,” he said. “So, a good [portion] of that’s covered through those means.” Repairs on the pool were being done in April, free of charge by a few gentlemen in the community, Mortenson said. The park district’s pool director will also be returning from last year and agreed to take a cut in salary, he said.
Miller said the park district has returning lifeguards as well.
Ritter said the foundation will be collecting “Pennies for the Pool,” from local businesses interested in donating. Becky Olson, Vice President of the Marengo Park Foundation, said they will be holding a $5 raffle for three season pool passes for the 2011 pool season, good for up to a family of four. The raffle started at the park district’s Easter Egg Hunt on April 23, and will continue until May 13, 2011 when three winners will be chosen, Olson said.
“I have a history with the park district, and have definitely seen it go downhill,” Olson said. “I’ve done the brochure there for the last two years. I’ve lived here for 17 years; and I’ve seen that park at a high. I’d love to be able to send my kids there with it the same way I remember it. The park is definitely a passion of mine.” Olson said she volunteers her time to work on the park district’s brochure.
“I would love to see Marengo residents and Union residents come forward and be [a part of ] this park district,” Olson said. “We want to make people feel that this is their park and we are here for their recreational needs.”
For more information on the Marengo Park District, call 815-568-5126, visit them on Facebook, or go to www.marengoparkdistrict.org. For more information on the Marengo Park Foundation, contact Aimee Ritter at 815-703-6725.