Palos Heights Alderman Heather Begley said members of the Recreation Advisory Board are now OK with proposed changes that could be coming. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Palos Heights Alderman Heather Begley said members of the Recreation Advisory Board are now OK with proposed changes that could be coming. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Changes coming to Palos Heights RAB despite resistance from McGovern

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By Jeff Vorva

The Palos Heights City Council is expected to approve new guidelines and regulations for the Recreation Advisory Board on Tuesday and at least one alderman doesn’t like what he sees.

Jerry McGovern took issue with the proposed changes.

“As many times as I read through this thing, I have to turn around and say personally that if you agree to this ordinance, you may as well just close the RAB,” he said at the Sept. 20 city council meeting

The council voted 6-1 (with Alderman Michael McGrogan absent and McGovern casting the “no” vote) to have the city lawyers draw up an ordinance amending the city’s code pertaining to the RAB to prepare for Tuesday’s scheduled vote.

Although no one from the public spoke about the topic at that meeting, representatives from the RAB expressed concerns about the changes during the previous two meetings on Aug. 16 and Sept. 6.

According to village documents, the RAB used to meet once a month and it is being proposed that they meet three times a year, prior to the publication of the Recreation Playbook in February, May and October.

Members of the board have staggered terms of five years and the proposal is for members to serve four years and up to two terms with one year off in between each term.

Currently, the RAB has the authority to adopt rules of procedure, but the new proposal allows the RAB to adopt the rules only with the majority approval of the city’s Recreation Committee.

Those are some of the major issues being addressed.

“I’ll start off very simply – we just did an ordinance, this very ordinance, six or seven years ago,” McGovern said. “I still prefer that ordinance over what this project is here.

“This project to me makes me feel like there is something wrong somewhere. There is something wrong. I don’t know if’s it the RAB board, I don’t know if it’s the Park District.”

Alderman Heather Begley said that after the initial proposal, several items were taken out for this revised edition.

“After meeting with some of the board members, we were able to address [some of the issues],” she said. “About five different stanzas were stricken from the ordinance. I personally am satisfied with the ordinance, and I think that our committee members were comfortable to the point where they were OK with it. I would like to move forward with it at some point soon so that we cannot put in any more energy to this.”

She hopes the coming vote will put an end to this issue.

“We’re kind of spinning our wheels,” she said. “So, we either say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ and let’s move on.”

Alderman Jeffrey Key, the head of the Recreation Committee, said a lot of work has gone into the proposed changes.

“This is the second time I’ve walked into a city council meeting with an ordinance suggestion that got unanimously voted in committee…at some point, Alderman McGovern, you are going to have to trust that the members of this committee have done their due diligence and worked on this and contributed to it and came to a common ground,” Key said. “That’s where we are.”

Redistricting in the works

Mayor Bob Straz said that after the 2020 census, there may be a shift in the districts.

“In the 2020 census, we had a shift in population of about 500 people out of the Second Ward,” Straz said. “It was primarily, I believe, because Trinity Christian College’s students were not in class because of COVID.

“We’re looking at the possibilities of re-districting the ward maps to reflect the new geographic distributions. We will get some more information moving forward.”

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