Senica Square Open House
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
5 to 7 p.m.
1 to 3 pm. Session:
Exhibits showing the concept plan for Senica Square were displayed and Parks Director Bob Ghighi and Tourism Coordinator Becky Clinard were on hand to answer questions. Twenty-one residents attended the 1 p.m. session (not all signed the sign in sheet).
Ghighi and Clinard made a brief presentation on the project, outlining the city’s objectives in creating a new parks space and what the city’s vision for programming the space would include.
Ghighi told the crowd that Senica Square would address some of the shortcomings of Oglesby’s other parks, including being more accessible for not only the handicapped, but for the elderly residents who often complain about having to walk on uneven ground to participate in the farmers market or other events at Senica Square and other city parks. Ghighi said the centralized downtown location, would allow residents in the city’s core neighborhoods the ability to walk to the park or drive. Oglesby’s current parks have little to no parking available. Clinard said the city’s goal was to create an intimate multi-use gathering space for residents to enjoy outdoor activities in the “urban” setting.
Ghighi also explained that the main feature of the park, the chilled ice skating rink would extend the use of the park through the winter, giving residents more opportunities to get out and exercise all year long. The water feature he said, was not a splash pad like Peru’s, as it would consist of inground fountain heads. Its purpose would be to allow families with small children or those who may be unable to or choose not to go to the swimming pool a place to picnic and cool off during the summer. The fountain would also serve as something that all could enjoy while sitting at the tables. The in-ground jets could be capped and protected when the space is used for performances on the stage, parks and rec classes, art or craft shows and the farmers market.
Clinard told residents that the city envisioned working with other groups in the community, such as the community college, schools, churches and organizations to provide year around programming. The bandshell will serve as a new home for the municipal band, which plays during the summer, as well as a summer concert series funded by the city’s Band Fund. There are also plans to expand the farmers market, and host car shows, art shows, craft fairs and some parks and rec classes at the site. City events, such as Harvest Fest, the winter event and ice-skating would continue to be held at Senica Square.
Residents were then encouraged to ask questions and make comments about the project.
A common concern expressed by Gary Peterlin (resident and a member of Support The Oglesby Pool) and Greg Stein (resident) was that the splash pad should be built near the existing swimming pool. Both felt that having the water feature in Senica Square would hurt the city’s pool and they also felt the money being used to fund improvements should be used for the pool. Peterlin said he supported the project, but felt the water feature was unnecessary. Louis Pioli (resident) said he was not in favor of the splash pad, but when asked what his objections were, said “he didn’t want it.”
Clinard explained that the city would be seeking a grant to fund the improvements, with the city’s share of the costs (if a grant is awarded) coming from the city’s TIF funds. The TIF expires in 2021, so if the city wants to make use of funds to fulfill its vision of a downtown park, it must act now. Using TIF funds for Senica Square does not mean that improvements to the pool or Dickinson House (the city’s community center) won’t happen.
Kathy Knoblauch, (resident) and Pam Supan (manager of the local Casey’s Store and an active volunteer for the city) spoke favorably of the project, noting that the downtown location was already being used for city events and they thought the improvements would make the area even more attractive to residents and visitors to the community. Knoblauch noted that with Oglesby located so close to the State Parks, those visitors are often looking for things to do after a day of hiking in the parks. Evening activities and the ice skating rink would be a draw not only for Oglesby residents but those from other communities and state park visitors.
Greg Stein questioned the need for a chilled-ice system, noting that the current ice rink is not used much. Ghighi explained that that was because of the weather. Last year, the rink was only frozen enough to skate on 5 to 7 partial days. With a chilled system, the rink could be used from November to March. The plans also call for skate rentals, which is something the residents have asked for since the current rink was purchased several years ago, said Ghighi. He said he expects that will increase the use of the rink as well.
Discussion continued, with most questions about the specifics of the project: the size of the bandshell, the hard surfaces, and the size of the water feature and ice skating rink. Ghighi talked about the ongoing maintenance of the area, noting that the hard surface and planters would be much easier to maintain than the current bare ground.
Bob Mullane (resident) said he was in favor of the project, noting that he could see the many young families in the community using the park and its added features on a regular basis. Mullane liked the downtown setting and was particularly excited about the ice rink. His family uses the present rink when its open, which he noted is not often because of the weather.
After about an hour and a half of questions and comments, the residents broke into smaller groups and talked amongst themselves for another 15 minutes. At 2:27, the last of the attendees left.
Senica Square Open House
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
5 to 7 p.m.
NOTE: This second session of the open house was added after several residents expressed concerns on social media that they would not be able to attend during working hours. It was announced on social media and on the local radio station.
Exhibits showing the concept plan for Senica Square were displayed and Oglesby Mayor Don Finley and Tourism Coordinator Becky Clinard were on hand to answer questions. Approximately 15 residents attended the 5 p.m. session (not all signed the sign in sheet). Many of the attendees had also attended the earlier session – and did not sign in a second time.
Clinard made a brief presentation on the project, outlining the city’s objectives in creating a new parks space and what the city’s vision for programming the space would include.
Discussion then ensued about the project, with many of the repeat attendees voicing the same opinion they voiced in the earlier meeting. Ken Henry, (resident, business owner) voiced his support for the project and particularly the location of the park, noting that events held in the downtown area attract residents and visitors to Oglesby.
Commissioner Dom Rivara was in the audience and questioned whether the funds could be used for better purposes. Finley told him that the city had purchased the site almost 7 years ago, and that with TIF 1 expiring, the funds to do the project might not ever be available again. Finley reminded him that the city was going to seek a grant to help cover the costs, especially for the ice rink, which is the single largest cost in the projected $1 million dollar project. Finley said that all Oglesby residents would have access to this park, noting the shortage of parking and the rough terrain in most of the city’s parks. Clinard said the smaller park, would foster a stronger sense of community and would give the city a better venue in which to host events like the farmers market, Harvest Fest, etc. Currently, even a little rain turns the grounds into a muddy mess.
The discussion eventually veered from the project to other city issues. By 6:15, all of the audience had left. Mayor Finley and Clinard remained at city hall until 7 p.m., at which time the open house was officially closed.