Will Brookfield ever be able to find a way to construct a community recreation center? That perennial question received renewed attention last week from the Brookfield Playgrounds and Recreation Commission, with Commissioner Matthew Joseph saying he’d like to make the creation of a recreation center a priority in coming years.
“As a commissioner, it’s my personal goal that after my five years is up, I can look back and say I was part of a team that did this,” Joseph said.
Joseph raised the issue at the Aug. 3 meeting of the Playgrounds and Recreation Commission, explaining he had recently talked to Peter Dyke, whose firm, Thompson, Dyke and Associates, serves as a planning consultant for the village’s Recreation Department, about the feasibility of such a project.
The two biggest hurdles, Joseph said were funding the construction of such a building and then paying for the ongoing operation of it. Joseph said that he saw the second part of that equation?”ongoing village support for the center?”as the most critical piece of the puzzle.
Since the Playgrounds and Recreation Commission is merely an advisory board with no power to levy taxes, funding for recreation center operations would fall to the village board.
“I don’t want a white elephant stuck somewhere in town,” Joseph said. “And we feel a little of that [funding] frustration now. Whatever the village trustees set aside, we’re at their mercy.”
The ensuing discussion of the idea came with a corollary idea of creating a Brookfield Park District to ensure funding of such an ambitious plan. The idea of a park district is not a new one in Brookfield political circles. It was the pet idea of Trustee Linda Stevanovich, who served as the board’s liaison to the Playgrounds and Recreation Commission for several years.
Stevanovich did some preliminary research into what forming a park district would take, but the idea never gained traction. Creating a park district, a separate taxing body, would require a referendum.
“When I was researching it, the village attorney suggested having community meetings on the positives and negatives of a park district, and then after that, go ahead and make a decision,” Stevanovich said. “We couldn’t have a rec center without funding, and a park district would be the way to go about it.”
According to Stevanovich, Brookfield residents have already sounded off on their wish to have the rec center. As long as four years ago, the Recreation Department completed a survey that indicated residents not only wanted a recreation center that could serve all segments of the village, but also the creation of a park district to fund it.
“That survey was very clear,” Stevanovich said. “Residents said they’d support a tax increase.”
The trouble is, no one either at the commission or village board level has moved the ball forward.
Stevanovich said that if Joseph wanted to keep the issue in the public eye, “he should keep bringing it up and being persistent.”
She doubted, however, that the idea would go far on a Playgrounds and Recreation Commission she views as “cautious” under the leadership of Commission President David LeClere.
“I don’t hold out a whole lot of hope,” she said. “Matt’s made a lot of things happen, but I’m not sure how much progress he’ll have with Dave LeClere.”
LeClere, meanwhile, expressed support for the idea of recreation center, and said that while a park district might make a recreation center easier to create, the recreation commission should pursue more grant opportunities.
In the end, however, LeClere said that “it takes a village board and a movement to get the ball rolling. We can see with this budget that we’re not going to see a lot of money coming our way. We need to go out ourselves and seek more.”
“It’s a big battle and a tough sell,” said Joseph about gathering widespread support for a rec center. “But at the end of the day, Brookfield will be a better place if we have it.”