JOLIET – Members of the Growing Parks Strong committee and supporters of the Joliet Park District referendum watched with anticipation Tuesday night at Traditions Restaurant and Pub as election results poured in.
The first precincts showing results had the referendum passing by a strong majority.
“We were excited when the first numbers came in and we watched the rest trend the same direction,” Park Board President Glen Marcum said.
More than 70 percent of voters said “yes” to the park district referendum, which asked residents if they would approve issuing $19.5 million in bonds for capital improvements. With 54 of 54 precincts reporting, there were 16,856 “yes” votes to 7,111 “no” votes, according to unofficial vote totals from the Will County Clerk’s office.
“Commissioners, staff, the team with the park district [all] work hard to give the community a good service,” Executive Director Dominick Egizio said. “I hope the vote is a reflection of the community agreeing with us on that.”
A strong positive vote for a referendum question asking residents for money isn’t the norm. While the Mokena park district referendum narrowly passed, the Braidwood, New Lenox park district and Wilton Township referendums failed Tuesday.
The bond would require taxpayers to pay an estimated $20 to $21 more per year per $100,000 of assessed property value on Joliet Park District property taxes.
The bond will be used for $6.2 million in parks renovations; $2 million in roads and infrastructure for Pilcher Park; $500,000 in tree restoration; $500,000 in security improvements; $300,000 in Memorial Stadium lighting; $3.5 million for an indoor training facility; and $5.5 million for the Nowell Park Community Center.
Marcum said credit must go to the Growing Parks Strong committee for spreading the word.
Business and community leaders from across Joliet formed the committee after the park district surveyed residents about what they would like to see improved in the city’s parks.
“This was a huge team effort,” said Mary Jaworski, executive vice president of the Joliet Area Chamber of Commerce, which endorsed the referendum. “I think we all thought we were going to win, but many of us didn’t expect to win by that huge of a margin.”
Jaworski said after the survey identified specific park district needs, the committee was formed with members who represent many facets of Joliet.
The committee distributed election materials in support of the referendum and formed a website with information on the projects and costs associated with the referendum.
Egizio said the park district’s communication with voters contributed to the big victory.
“We went to the voters with what our needs and projects are,” he said. “There were a couple of things they didn’t want so we didn’t move forward with those projects.”