Money hunt begins for Ehlert renovation

? Brookfield must find $400,000 to help turn vacant land into ball fields, trails, skate park.

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Beginning tonight, Brookfield trustees and staff will begin fine-tuning the village's budget for the 2006-05 fiscal year, which began May 1. And a central part of that discussion, according to Village President Michael Garvey, will be figuring out how to fund improvements to the 5.67-acre parcel of land at Jaycee/Ehlert Park, that was purchased from School District 103.

Since the village acquired the land in early 2004, plans for the property have languished, since no money was earmarked for improvements in 2004-05. However, since the land purchase was financed in part by a $750,000 state grant, the village cannot stand pat indefinitely. One of the grant's terms required the village to begin improvements to the land within three years of purchase.

As a result, Trustee Linda Stevanovich and members of the village's Playgrounds & Recreation
Commission began to push for a second grant to help fund improvements. By July 1, the village will officially apply for a $400,000 Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The grant requires a matching amount from the village, meaning Brookfield will have to come up with $400,000 on its own.

"In the course of the upcoming budget talks, we have to find a way to find matching money," Garvey said. "We'll have to see if there are areas of waste or excess where we can cut back, or we can make it a priority. I'll ask the village manager and board to come up with suggestions."

On May 23, the board held a special meeting to discuss the grant proposal and an updated plan for the park land, which will include new playing fields, walking paths, a skate park, a bocce court, a picnic area and parking. The total cost for the new park development was estimated at just over $830,000.

The plan differs only slightly from the one submitted by the village for the first OSLAD grant it received in 2003, which went toward buying the property. The old plan had called for a putting green and a winter ice skating rink. Stevanovich has long been a proponent of building a skate park in the village.

In 2002, Stevanovich backed an effort to include an in-line skate park at Candy Cane Park as part of a complete overhaul there. However, the idea elicited protests from residents and it eventually was scrapped. A plan to shift the skate park to Ehlert Park later in 2002 never got off the ground.

When Architect Peter Dyke unveiled the new plans for Ehlert Park May 23, the skate park was a central feature.

"I made sure it was included," Stevanovich said. "As long as there's a skate park, I'm happy with [the plan]. I think this is better suited to residents than the original plan."

The village board will conduct another hearing on the park plans and grant application on June 13, and residents will be allowed input. However, Trustee Michael Towner, the former chairman of the Playgrounds & Recreation Commission said he hoped the plan as submitted by the architect wouldn't change significantly.

"I'd fight to keep it pretty well set," Towner said. "It offers more for wider age group."

Once the village submits its grant application to the IDNR, an announcement on its success or failure likely won't come until the spring of 2006. Construction might not begin until spring of 2007, depending on the ability of the village to set aside money for the improvements.

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