By Bob Balgemann


The village board has approved suspending the parks advisory board (PAB), agreeing with a recommendation issued by the committee of the whole on July 11.

However, the ordinance creating the park board will remain on the books, should a future village board decide to reinstate it.

Action to suspend came during the Monday, July 18 village board meeting.

The board voted 4-2 in favor of suspending the park’s board.

Not everyone thinks the park board should be suspended, with those responsibilities being taken up by the committee of the whole for administration and zoning.

Village President John Neitzel expressed his disappointment “in the actions taken to date regarding the movement to abolish the parks advisory board. Having community volunteers involved in local government I feel best serves the community in an open and transparent way.”

He questioned what suspending the board says to community members “who have faithfully served, some from the inception of the parks advisory board.”

The board was formed in 2012 and he it can be credited with doing a lot of positive things in that time.

Some of them are clean-up days, establishing a community garden, building basketball courts in the village hall parking lot, and the annual holiday celebration outside village hall.

The park board’s role, he said, is to:

Advise the village board and president in all matters pertaining to public parks and recreation.

Make recommendations for an annual parks and recreation budget.

Assist in the planning of parks and recreational programs and make related recommendations.

Consider requests for special uses of village parks and playground facilities and recommend whether they should be approved or denied.

President Neitzel said he would prefer that roles and responsibilities of the park board be reviewed and updated, rather than suspending it altogether.

He said further that the village currently has no taxing district to fund park programs for residents living north of Orth Road. Expenses for parks in that area are paid out of the general fund. (Residents south of Orth are within the boundaries of the Belvidere Park District.)

The president acknowledged that there have been times when there was no quorum for park board meetings, so no official action could be taken.

“I realize that in today’s society it is sometimes difficult to get community members to participate in local governmental bodies,” he said. “But, to abolish or suspend the PAB is, I feel, short-sighted and does not serve well our community.”

He said a few of the committee members supporting suspension stated there could be occasional “town hall” meetings, to seek resident input on park-related ideas and activities.

“While I am encouraged by this gesture, isn’t this just a replacement for a structure that already exists?” he asked. “Of course, all public meetings at village [already] offer the ability for residents to provide public comment on parks or any subject.”

He concluded by saying he did not believe suspending the PAB best serves “our obligations as elected officials to our community in improving quality of life and a sense of community pride.”

Suspending the park board for the time being is supported by trustees Neeley Erickson and Ron Quimby.

Trustee Quimby has an extensive background in municipal parks and recreation. Since moving to Poplar Grove, he has been involved through the Lions Club and being a member of both the village board and park board.

He is chairman of the committee of the whole on administration and zoning, which will deal with park and recreation-related issues.

“There really wasn’t a need for it,” he said of the PAB. “A lot of was John [Neitzel]. He would take it [the idea] and run with it. A lot of it should be done at the [village] board level. So not it will be.”

Trustee Quimby said part of the problem was the lack definition of what the PAB’s responsibilities were and of what its focus should be.

“The original idea was to get a better grasp of what properties the village owned and to decide what to do with it,” he said. “We only have two parks with any equipment – Lions Park and one near the airport.”

He added this move was only temporary, and the park board or some version of it could come back in the future.

“The ordinance is [still] in place,” he said.

Trustee Erickson is the newest member of the village board and will serve until 2019. She is the board’s advisory trustee to the PAB.

“This will be more efficient,” she said of the change. “Many of the parks advisory board meetings have been canceled because a full quorum could not be obtained, or lack of agenda items to discuss,” she explained.

“Not only will parks discussions occur more frequently, but all trustees will be involved, including the public,” she said.

“Suspending the parks advisory board does not stifle community involvement. All agendas are posted for public viewing and public comment is set aside for each meeting.”

She continued that public opinion and suggestions are always welcome.

“I see a lack of movement and outcomes from the parks advisory board due to its current structure. It is imperative that the Village of Poplar Grove move forward in a responsible, but swift, matter with parks and recreational development,” she said.

While fixing roads and maintaining sewage treatment plants is important, she said if Poplar Grove really is to be “A Great Place to Call Home,” it needs to be more than roads and sewer fixes.

“We need to provide amenities and attributes for the community that encourage outdoor activities and excite families and children,” she said.



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