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County Board moves forward with new community center planning process

The Cook County Community Center Board of Trustees sought direction from the county commissioners on Tuesday when Diane Booth, the center’s director, and two community center board members pleaded with commissioners for direction on how to proceed with plans for a new and improved community center.

In November, voters passed a referendum that includes funding for the new center and pool complex, as well as a list of other potential community projects including broadband internet and an addition to the library. There is some confusion amongst county board members on how to prioritize, organize, plan, and move potential projects identified by the sales tax forward.

Commissioner Jim Johnson said it was time to start the process and commented, “I’d be very supportive of this group moving forward. We’ll eventually have an end product to look at but unless we put these ideas together we won’t have one.”

Booth presented the board with an outline arrived at by the Community Center trustees. Several tasks were identified along with a tentative timeline. “We’ve already done a lot of work toward a final plan, but is this the group you want to do it?” asked Booth.

Commissioner Fritz Sobanja said that the community center group was already waist deep in information and is well prepared to proceed with a plan. Commissioner Bob Fenwick however argued in favor of structure before action. Fenwick has all along lobbied for hiring a county administrator to be the point person on the many complicated projects awaiting action as a result of the 1 percent sales tax. 

“We have an obligation to take charge of the project, and it’s not the only project,” said Fenwick. “We have to either run the project or find people to run it. If we don’t do that, it’s a big mistake,” he added.
Fenwick further said he was not in favor of sending out a committee to do work that may in the end be rejected by the county board. Community center trustee Gail Anderson called on the board to take action by saying, “You need to figure this out. It’s your job now. Why does this seem like such an impossible mission? We’re here to give you free help and information; it won’t cost you a cent. And we’ve done this before and we’re used to rejection.”

Fenwick reiterated the need for a project administrator; Sobanja said even with one he or she would need the kind of information the community center group is offering. Center trustee Jean Mathias said the group was ready to re-assemble the information and bring it to the board. Commissioner Jan Hall agreed they should gather information while the commissioners work on putting together an administrative structure.

In the end Commissioner Bruce Martinson asked the community center board to gather the necessary information, define the needs versus wants and recommend what can and can’t be included in the community center-pool complex. He and Fenwick agreed that by the time that work is finished; the county board should have an administrative plan in place.