More FOIA documents: Park District and School district

Rochf has provided a number of FOIA documents to be posted – there is a lot to read:

UPDATE (02 March):

FOIA responses from Unit 4:

61 Responses to “More FOIA documents: Park District and School district”

  1. rochf Says:

    Thanks for posting these. For some reason, I’m now appearing as ROCHF rather than my full name–I’m not sure how that happened. I didn’t want you to think that I was not being transparent. Tom Lockman advises that the school district’s response will be forthcoming on Wednesday. I will send those to you as well upon receipt.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      From here on out, let it be known that “rochf” is Rochelle Funderburg. 🙂

      Just from a technical point of view, your “handle” was showing up as “rochelle” on February 13th, but switched to “rochf” on February 18th – same email address, same IP address. Maybe a cookie thing? I imagine it depends on if you are signed into google or facebook.

  2. kshannon617 Says:

    That is a LOT of stuff to wade through! Have you found anything interesting yet?

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Yes, a ton of stuff. I SO WISH that entities that respond to FOIA request would STOP SCANNING THEM IN!! Crikey! I want the electronic, searchable, text version. Especially the email, I mean what sense does that even make? Print all the emails and then scan them back in? Where did common sense go?!?

      Some of that stuff I have seen before. Heck, I even see my name (and yours, and Rochelle, among others). It is really hard to read the maps, but they are part of a larger story about how this whole Dodd’s/Spalding Park thing has progressed. I have not even scratched the surface on what I have read, but I imagine there are some good gems in there. Maybe we should make this a group effort. *grin* “Calling all email prospectors and data miners”

  3. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    I get a really bad feeling after seeing it all together. If you look at what has to be done to put the school at Dodd’s and at what they have been doing for the past year, it’s what they have been doing. The new request is almost identical to the first one. They have been documenting why other places won’t work. Getting estimates for replacing the soccer fields. It’s like they’ve been using a checklist. The timeline gives things away. Looking at moving soccer fields last year, cost estimates last year. They researched the land restrictions last year. They also traded some of Dodds last year so they knew how to go about it or they did it wrong. I really want to see the deeds to Dodds and to Spalding. Are there restrictions listed on them? Has anyone looked?

  4. charlesdschultz Says:

    In regards to Rebecca’s question above, I am curious if one or two readers would have the time and inclination to go through all those documents and construct a rough timeline of events. Your help would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

    • Rebecca Patterson Says:

      As I was reading I was thinking it needed to be printed and cut apart and reordered. Things could be compared better, like the first and second requests to see if they are in fact word for word. To overturn the grant they have to have a public meeting. The meeting is tomorrow night. And it’s not just what the park board has been doing it’s what the school board has been doing.

  5. rochf Says:

    What I found of interest was the following: it was the school district’s architects who brought up Dodds–there is an email that indicates that they looked at Spaulding and it scored poorly for a school, but the architect took it upon himself, maybe at the request of the school, to score Dodds for use as a school, even though Dodds was not on the table.

    The second thing I found of interest was the fact that a majority of the people who wrote or emailed the park district were against the use of Dodds as a school–I think that is something that neither the park district nor the school have acknowledged.

    Third, there is a very interesting letter written by Donna Giertz, summing up why this is not a good idea for Parkland. She made some very compelling arguments.

    Fourth, Tom Kacich has obviously been lobbying for this–his letter clearly demands an explanation from the park district about why Dodds is not being offered. One assumes from reading his column that he just answers questions and supplies facts. I’m not sure that is strictly accurate, although, like all citizens, he’s certainly entitled to his opinion.

    Fifth, I never saw a good answer to Charles’ question about who prepared or asked that plans be drawn up for soccer fields on the northern property.

    Nothing has changed from the last time that the school asked for Dodds and it was rejected. The real question I have is even after that rejection, why would the school think the request would be viewed favorably now?

    I also have another question that perhaps needs to be addressed as well. Recently the federal EPA has been looking into regulating waterways more heavily. I’m wondering if anyone thought to check with them about this, given that the Copper Slough runs through Dodds.

    • Rebecca Patterson Says:

      Genius! Nobody thought about the Copper Slough!

    • kshannon617 Says:

      As far as Tom Kacich goes, it looks to me like his letter is relaying a question from a reader. He has that “Ask Tom” feature in the News Gazette where you can ask him about any local or historical issue, and he’ll try to dig up an answer. Tom K himself has said a few times that he favors Spalding.

  6. Kathy R. Says:

    About 3/4 of the way through the 1st document, in a Feb. 10, 2015 email correspondence between Nicole Lafond of News Gazette and Tom DeLuce of Park District:

    A “gentleman from Louisiana” has contacted both parties with questions about the Open Space Acquisition Grant that Dodds was purchased under in 1969.


    • Kathy R. Says:

      Sorry, I see he is identified in the 2nd set of documents. Still reading…

      • rochf Says:

        I think he eventually says that he lived in Urbana at one time.

      • Rebecca Patterson Says:

        He has a degree in forestry, knows about the grants. His opinion is that tha land was bought with grant money that ties it up forever. The park district is claiming that the fund they got it from doesn’t exist anymore so it doesn’t matter. I don’t think I buy that.

  7. Kathy R. Says:

    I’d like to highlight something from the Park District:

    April 11, 2014 email from Tom DeLuce to Joe Petry regarding the soccer complex at Dodds (just over halfway through FOIA document 3):

    “I would love the opportunity to redesign the soccer complex at another location, as it could have been done a lot better. It will be interesting to see if they [the school board — KR] come back with an ask about Dodds.”

    Interesting indeed!

    • rochf Says:

      So I think the real question is: have there been meetings or discussions between either staff members or park board members and members of either Unit 4 administration or the school board that suggested Unit 4 should ask for Dodds, or Dodds was on the table, because the park district wanted to rebuild elsewhere?

      At least one school board member has suggested that Joe Petry offered Dodds but then couldn’t deliver. It’s very hard to figure out what has been going on, and frankly, Dr. Wiegand’s suggestion that Unit 4 now wants these hearings because they want transparency is laughable.

    • Rebecca Patterson Says:

      Keep reading. Am I the only one who’s read all of it?

  8. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    It looks like this has been ongoing from last year, that it never stopped.

    • rochf Says:

      Contrary to what the public has been told.

      • Rebecca Patterson Says:

        Urgent! The original grant is not found. Why? They are looking under Dodds. The park was bought in 1969, with the grant money, renamed Dodds in 1972. So we need to find out what the name was in those three years. The grant could be under that name.

  9. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    Steps to conversion. 1. Public meeting, which is tomorrow. 2. Replacement land identified, I think we’ve all seen the drawings of new fields at Interstate Dr. 3. Appraisals of the properties. They have been running the numbers on Dodds and they had to get Interstate Dr. appraised when they bought it. 4. Environmental Screening Form covers the impact on the park and replacement property. We keep hearing how good this will be for the community. 5. Environmental Assessment Study. They brought up toxins at other sites. 6. Comprehensive Environmental Review Program. Wetlands. Are there any endangered snails living on the soccer fields? 7. On site inspection to see if sites provide equal values. 8. Conversion Information Form. 9. If the state agrees, it goes to the Feds.

    Regarding the public meeting, if they are using that to qualify, I don’t feel there has been adequate notice.

  10. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    I’m wondering about violations of the Open Meetings Act. They went into closed session several times to discuss real estate from what it looks like. The only grounds under the act are :
     the purchase or lease of real property by the public body;
     the setting of a price for sale or lease of property owned by the public body;
    I don’t see how this case applies. Any new parks in the last year?

  11. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    We may have a name!!! Northwest Park Site. Thanks to Charlie Crothers in Louisiana!

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      That was some good sluething. Was Mr. Crothers a Champaign townie previously?

      • Rebecca Patterson Says:

        Yeah, he sent me a bunch of info to go through. Legal stuff. He grew up here and got his forestry degrees from the UI so that’s how he knows about the grants. The previous sales/trades the park district did of Dodds could be in violation of the legal agreements. It was asked at the meeting but no answer.

  12. pattsi Says:

    Any take aways worthy of posting from the CPD public mtg?

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Personally, I say let the voters vote on location. 🙂

      Given what we know and the way things are going, I am thinking we will have another very close vote in April for the referendum, slightly leaning towards “yes”, and the highschool will be built on Interstate Drive. That is what my gut says.

      Tonight’s open comment time was a good step in the right direction towards a true town hall meeting, but like the Dejong-Richter “community dialogs”, merely opened the door but did not follow-through. Both sides of the debate have valid and strong arguments, but ultimately it comes down to the vote in April. To me, it is very sad that the one and only thing we vote on in regards to the future facility plan is a lump sum $144ish million.

      Ergo, the much more important vote, by far, will be for who we vote in as board members. How well does eveyone know the board candidates? CFT and the Chamber will be making their endorsements known soon, and I most likely will be publishing my own top picks (I have figured out 4 of the 5, seriously chewing on my fifth). Who we vote into the board has the potential to have a dramatic effect on how this plays out, much more than a close vote on the referendum.

      At least, that is my opinion. 🙂 Happy to hear what others think.

      • Rebecca Patterson Says:

        I was bothered by the talk of having the “old” boards sign a contract to bind the “new” boards if they decide to trade Dodds. People are running because of the new school issue and the issue with Dodds.

      • pattsi Says:

        Well, since we can not vote on a sit, then what. Letting the voters vote is democracy but not informed democracy.
        What is going to be done with this new information about Dodds inception?
        The present board will more than likely decide the site. Voting in a new board is a ruse.

  13. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    There haven’t been any engineering studies done for Dodds. They admitted they could come back and ask for more later. Talked about sharing pool and auditorium with Parkland, using the tennis courts which need $60,000 worth of resurfacing. Using a lot of stuff at Parkland but have never talked to Parkland about it. Including parking spaces which they said was for night events. A petition was turned in with over 200 signatures in favor. That’s all I got off hand.

    • pattsi Says:

      Indeed, there will be so many more costs not revealed or not known now along with the interest on the bonds that the cost for the new HS will be 40% more than the 98M number being used today.

  14. pattsi Says:

    Question–does anyone know the time line from the April election to the next board mtg to when the new board takes office? Second question–is there anything in the board rules concerning reversing a previous board’s decision?

    • Rebecca Patterson Says:

      From what I could find the last time it took almost a month. And it was mentioned last night about possibly signing a binding contract before the new boards are sworn in, ecause the park board will be different too.

  15. rochf Says:

    I thought last night’s meeting was very helpful and informative. I can’t help but think, after I heard there were no engineering studies for Dodd, and that they need to start building in 2017, well before any process can be completed regarding the restrictions on Dodd, that this has been a ruse to provide cover for the Interstate site and the referendum.

    One thing that troubled me was the comments from the supporters that because we were questioning that motive on the part of the Board, that we are being divisive and that we are continuing some kind of “us v. We” mentality.

    First, I want to say that we all have the right to our opinions, and that we should respect those differences. Secondly, I think Unit 4 shares a large part of the blame, if there is any blame, for the divisive nature of this process. Last night, for the first time, we heard that the school board did not commission a study on Dodds, even though it ranks high on their list–there is no way to figure out why that is. Even Judy Wiegand admitted there was a good deal of speculation in this.

    Those kinds of things are why no one trusts the school administration and the board. The plan is also built on a number of assumptions, such as using Parkland’s parking, etc. I thought Dr. Ramage was very gracious, but he was clearly taken by surprise by that statement.

    If Unit 4 was really serious about Dodds, why would they not have ordered a study, talked to Parkland and other players, before the process was this far along–either this has been a ruse, or they think that the community will simply give in because it’s for the children.

    We all agree that education is important, but we’re going to have to live with decision for many years, and we can’t afford to get it this wrong.

    • Rebecca Patterson Says:

      All the talk about working with Parkland and never contacted them except about the tennis courts. Gives new meaning to community collaboration.

  16. pattsi Says:

    There has been a great deal of emotion and talk, but relatively no facts and figures to hang a decision on, but that “trust us.”

  17. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    I have a question along the lines of the “trust us” and using Dodds to get votes. They added rebuilding Dr. Howard at $10 million, when they spent $12 mil. for a strand a some remodeling at Garden Hills, both BTW and Carrie Busey were listed as costing around $18 mil. Does it sound reasonable to rebuild Dr. Howard for $10 mil considering they will have to also clear the site? Am I remembering it wrong?

  18. rochf Says:

    I think it would also be helpful to start adding up all of the others costs–replacement of soccer fields, engineering studies, any costs for traffic studies and engineering, etc. By the time you add all of that up, you’ve added at least 10% to a $140 million dollar project, and that doesn’t take into consideration any additional buses or transportation costs, there will be, if any; or any cost overruns and unforeseen conditions which often pop up on construction projects.

    The newspaper today reported that if the state legislature reduces the amount of taxes going to local governments, MTD will take a hit. How will they, then, make that up, and provide the services that will have to provided for a new school, no matter where it is? Maybe it’s a wash for them since they already bus some kids, but what I think some of the governmental bodies forget is that it’s all tax money that comes out of the taxpayers’ pockets, regardless of which taxing body receives it.

    • Rebecca Patterson Says:

      They get paid by the school for bussing the kids which is why there was the big fuss over them saying it would be cheaper to just by passes for every student. But the school still has to come up with the money. They also talked about redoing the entrance on Bradley and I could see the one on Mattis also having to be upgraded too. I noticed when they talked about land and the park board referred to Interstate Dr as what they would get Wiegand fudged and said where ever it was and what ever land they agreed on. She wouldn’t commit to it. But the park board seemed to want the northern half from the paper. Costs could be a cover after April.

  19. Halfway Interesting Says:

    On page 62 of the FOIA Request #1, the IDNR clearly specifies that all practical alternatives must be evaluated and rejected. I’m trying to understand how anyone could make the case that there are no other “practical alternatives” available for a school site when the school site has already purchased the Interstate Drive land and Keep Central Central has actively promoted other site alternatives. Interstate Drive may not be idea, but it sure seems practical to me. Another condition is that the Park District must have an open hearing. Well, they did and a majority of the people who spoke were against this land swap. Even if you eliminate the uncertainty surrounding how long it will take (1 year? 7 years?), it would be logical to assume that people against the land swap will be talking to the IDNR if the land swap proposal moves forward. It seems getting the necessary votes from the Park Board is the least of the challenges. There are kids learning in trailers and the Judy Weigland said she’d be willing to wait an additional two years to get a firm answer on Dodds. That seems like a very risky move given the IDNR’s criteria.

    From a Park District perspective, I don’t understand how a responsible Park Board can justify incurring significant expenses while performing due diligence that should be the financial responsibility of the School District. They Park District has spend millions of dollars on Dodds Park and they have to spend $10’s of thousands, or possible $100s of thousands to move there own park? It does not seem fiscally responsible. How much has the Park District already spent doing analysis, responding to FOIA requests, hosting meetings? As far as I know, the Park Board has not even indicated they are open to this. How do they justify spending any significant amount of taxpayer dollars to move a park when there has been no formal public discussion until Feb 25, 2015? How could the park district justify spending anything towards this given the risky nature of the IDNR criteria? Again, this seems like something the School District taxpayers should be picking up the tab on, not the park district. This is an important distinction since the school district does not share the same boundaries as the park district.

    • Rebecca Patterson Says:

      Last year there wasn’t much public discussion about it. By having it they get it over with, and maybe people will more on. The school can’t keep bringing it up because it’s been looked at as a community. The Park District has to cover these expenses because it’s about “their” park but if they made a deal the School Board would have to pay to replace it within 3 years with our tax money. To rebuild the soccer complex is over $4 million dollars. Add in redesigning the traffic lights at Parkland’s entrance and the traffic study to go with it.

      Too many of the reasons given don’t add up. Saying it would be cheaper when they haven’t done an engineering study is one. There are no drawing, nothing. Nobody ever talked to Parkland except about using the tennis courts. How can they tell the voters that on April 7 they want them to vote yes to build a new school at Interstate Dr and bring up Dodds now? It has to be for votes. Just like adding Dr. Howard was for votes.

  20. Halfway Interesting Says:

    It seems counter intuitive to go through a site selection process where Interstate Drive ranked the highest per your due diligence process, purchase the land without an option, and then pursue Dodds Park when nobody ever offered it. When I brought up this point in a N-G comment, John Bambenek strongly stated that Park District initially offered up BOTH Dodds and Spalding, but then (oddly) the Park Board rejected it when they were asked to formally consider it. When you hear Judy Wiegland and the Park District describe the events, the School District claims to have pushed for Dodds Park on their own accord only after ruling out Spalding Park. I would have more confidence in the school board if they were responding to the Park District rather pushing for this entirely on their own. Then again, Judy Wiegland once again does not back up Bambenek’s take while describing the events at the recent Park Board meeting. At the end of the day, none of this really adds up. You have kids learning in trailers and a school district that should probably be focused on selling their chosen site. I disagree with Charles and think the referendum is dead unless things seriously change in the coming weeks. I would think a more logical approach by the school board would be to build a consensus (or at least enough of one) around Interstate Drive. Instead, the school district seems to be piling up opponents. I could be wrong, but I don’t understand how any park commissioner is going to change their “no” vote April 11 with the majority of people voicing opinions against Dodds Park. In the unlikely event the park commissioners vote in favor of giving up Dodds Park I suspect there will be some people stepping up to take credit for Dodds Park that aren’t affiliated with the School District. If all this political theater ends up sabotaging the referendum, the school district will take all the credit.

    • Rebecca Patterson Says:

      I think the school asked about Dodds and the park dist. countered with Spalding. The problem with their response was they said if Spalding won’t work we can look at Dodds, which gave an opening to reject Spalding. It started informal. Even after it was rejected last year they stayed on it. It’s in the emails. Plus with people in the community bringing it up it gave them cover to go after it. It seems to be more about getting votes than getting the park. They haven’t done the leg work on it.

  21. charlesdschultz Says:

    I love the ongoing discussion; all of this is what should have happened right after Great Schools Together 9 years ago, but no, it died from the public’s eye. So now we are rushing on a crash course towards yet another referendum. I thank each of you for participating in this dialog, and I hope it continues to spill over to face-to-face conversations.

    Eric, you said you think the referendum is dead. I 100% absolutely agree with the logical approach you mentioned, and in fact, I have said since November that I really want a vote to be 80% (in favor or against); we are in desperate need of consensus building, but too few people are striving for that. Sadly. But you have to admit that there will still be a large contingent of voting taxpayers who are stalwart backers of the schools no matter what and will vote yes regardless. And as you know better than I, an April election is bound to bring out more of the older crowd (in proportion).

    In reality, the parks belong to the people, the schools belong to the people, as does the City of Champaign. The people have to decide, by vote, how this will all play out. Thus educating the voters with facts and easy-to-understand data, building consensus and fighting against division, seems paramount.

    Political theater indeed. The finger-point and subterfuge is an example to our growing children of how NOT to do things. As Charles Barkley said “Do as I say, not as I do.”

  22. pattsi Says:

    Folks, I agree with Charles great conversational exchange. But my question is what are you going to do with it. There still is no matrix showing potential options, what might be cost, what are the list of external costs based on location, what are hidden costs as best as can be considered, will a site produce connectivity with the community or will it create barriers, will a site increase the possibility of economic development, will a site exacerbate sprawl, etc.?

    • Rebecca Patterson Says:

      Has anything been said about financing costs? I haven’t seen anything, how long we would pay on this, rates, nothing. But they come up with a number for a $100,000 house.

      • pattsi Says:

        The issue becomes how the costs are calculated–do these calculations include interest on the bonds plus additional costs that will come into play related to the externalities connected with the referendum? Probably not. Last but not least, as was mentioned last evening at the county facilities mtg, the costs in the jailconsultants’ report basically mean nothing because there are no drawings from which construction costs can be calculated.

  23. rochf Says:

    I see that the park district will take a vote next week on Dodds Park. Given the lack of planning and information from Unit 4, I don’t see how it would meet the IDNR criteria. I suspect that the push will be on to pressure any park district commissioner Unit 4 thinks opposes this.

    I don’t see how this process is going to help anyone in any upcoming elections.

  24. rochf Says:

    I will be there and am encouraging others to show up and speak–I hope we can all agree to disagree and that we won’t be facing complaints that if we disagree with Unit 4 we’re being divisive.

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