Some volunteers honored on the new wall at City Hall gather for a photo on April 18. (Photo by City of Palos Heights)
Recreation pilot programs ready to fly in Palos Heights
By Jeff Vorva
Bylut vs. pilot.
Palos Heights Alderman Don Bylut was outspoken for his support of a pilot program allowing residents to sample services offered by the recreation department for free.
But he was also outspoken about not granting expanded recreation benefits to full-time city employees.
The city plans to try out both programs through Dec. 31 and then will re-evaluate them.
The employee program was approved 4-3 on April 18 with Bylut, Robert Basso and Jack Clifford voting “no” while Heather Begley was absent.
The pilot program for the residents is still in the discussion stages but was getting favorable feedback from the council members.
“I believe in giving something back to our people — our patrons,” Bylut said.
He said it would be a goodwill gesture to allow patrons to use the facilities, such as the Recreation Center and the pool, on a limited basis.
“We have a fitness center that is underutilized, although not only have we built that building under taxpayer funds, we’ve actually replaced all of the equipment in the original fitness center,” Bylut said.
“We have a swimming pool that, according to Alderman [Jeffrey] Key has never come to within 200 of capacity. I would like to suggest those who are not members but are taxpayers to be allowed to utilize our pool and our fitness center one day a week.”
Mayor Bob Straz was concerned that it might anger those who pay for full-time privileges. Bylut countered that if people get a sample and like it, they may want to purchase full passes.
When it came to allowing employees the perk of extended use of the facilities, Bylut was not as enthused.
“We pay our employees and we don’t have a big turnover in the city,” he said. “Although this would be a nice add-on, there are plenty of surrounding communities that don’t offer these kinds of benefits and I’m sure they do that for a reason.”
Alderman Jerry McGovern voted in favor of it as a thank you to employees, especially those who work throughout the night and braving bad weather to serve the city.
Added Key: “We can take a chance the next couple of months. If it’s bad for Palos Heights, I’ll vote ‘no’ for it on Dec. 31.”
The council heard a presentation about the new volunteer recognition wall that will adorn City Hall.
Several volunteers are on the wall, but Public Arts Commission member Maria DeCaprio-Sunta had Lynda Schiappa speak to the board about volunteering.
“Her desire to make the community a better place is evident by her hard work and spirit of giving,” DeCaprio-Sunta said. “She has spent her life volunteering.”
“I’m humbled by the attention because I don’t feel like I’m deserving of it,” Schiappa said. “I do what I do out of passion and out of love of community. I have to say God has blessed me with so many friends. It’s a beautiful thing.”
The council reappointed John Doody to the Police and Fire Commission for a three-year term expiring April 18, 2026.
Craig Moore was appointed to the Recreation Advisory Board for a five-year term, expiring April 18, 2028.
A special events permit for the St. Alexander’s Raider Run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on May 11 was approved.
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