Alderman Shaw voices concern about proposed plans for Kiwanis Park

By Nick Kovatch on March 11 at 7:06am

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The Our Saviour 8th Grade Boys Basketball Team, IESA Class 1A State Champions were honored by Mayor Andy Ezard at last night's City Council meeting.

A Jacksonville City Council member says he wants to save Kiwanis Park.

The city’s Cemetery Superintendent, Jim Pierson, would like to build a storage shed at the current location of the park. The idea has been brought up during Cemetery Board of Managers meetings. Pierson says Kiwanis Park receives little use.

“There’s a couple of older kids who are over there and they let themselves be known,” says Pierson. “They’re not playing. They’re just banging on equipment. Other than that I haven’t seen anyone over there in quite a while.”

Alderman Adonnis Shaw is opposed to the plans.

“I’d like the park to be upgraded,” says Shaw. “Make it better for future residents especially in that area. If you look at it there’s not that much green space when you look at the city of Jacksonville. We need to keep as much green space as possible.”

During last night’s City Council meeting, Parks and Lakes Superintendent Bruce Surratt took issue with the way Shaw brought the topic to the media’s attention instead of talking to city officials about the proposed plans.

“Every budget item has to go through City Council,” says Surratt. “So someone might talk about this or that but it eventually ends up on the table. Every time I have an idea or I don’t like something I don’t go run to the press with it. Nobody is pulling the wool over anybody’s eyes. Nobody is going behind anybody’s back at anything and if we do something we’re doing it for the betterment of the city of Jacksonville and using the taxpayers money as wisely as we can possibly use it. That’s what this is all about.”

Shaw says people who live near the park are against the unofficial plans to turn it into a storage location for the cemetery department.

“If they would go door-to-door and talk to their neighbors and actually ask them ‘What do you think about this park? Should we remove it? Should something else go there?’ It would be a resounding ‘No. We want to keep our park’,” says Shaw. “I obtained 103 signatures from residents that stay within five blocks of that area that said they want that park to stay there. That speaks louder than any assumption from non-elected superintendents.”

Shaw recently proposed allocating $2,500 to improve Kiwanis Park, but that proposal was voted down by the Finance Committee in a 2-1 vote.

Pierson says he’s unaware of any petition and his department has been setting aside money every year for the last four or five years for a storage shed to be built somewhere. He says if the cemetery department did take over Kiwanis Park it would be used for more than just storage.

“We could take it over and keep up the grounds but not the toys and stuff,” says Pierson. “We’d have to take that out. If we would use it for anything we would probably start a tree farm over there for the planting of trees to plant around the cemeteries and possibly around the city itself.”

Jacksonville Kiwanis Club president Lisa Galloway says the organization donated the park back to the city several years ago, but the Kiwanis name remained attached to it. She says the club is in no way responsible for the park, and recently asked the city to have its name removed after the park fell into disrepair.

In other business, City Council approved a disc golf course in Foreman’s Grove. Illinois College sophomores Nathan Zimmerman and Caleb Harris made a presentation about their plans for the sport in the city. The city will contribute $1,000 toward the nine-hole course. Organizers say it should be completed by May.

Also last night, aldermen approved the promotion of Jacksonville Police Lieutenant Chad Moore to Deputy Chief. The Fire and Police Commissioners will make corresponding promotions.

And finally, the Jacksonville/Morgan County Enterprise Zone was expanded to include property near JHS for Holly Brook assisted living and mental care facility.