When Frankfort resident Nancy Merk learned of the Frankfort Square Park District’s intent to separate from South Suburban Special Recreation Association and enter into the Lincoln-Way Special Recreation Association, she became disappointed.
“As a parent with an adult with a disability and a taxpayer of Frankfort Square, I am very upset with your decision,” she said. “How can a board make a decision that affects children and adults with disabilities without even contacting them, their parents or their guardians to get their opinion on this?”
Merk was one of several people on hand at a July 20 regular meeting of the Frankfort Square Park District to raise concerns over the board’s recent decision.
Frankfort Square Park District executive director Jim Randall spoke on behalf of the board and said it was not a knee-jerk reaction.
“Separation from SSSRA was not a reactionary decision, but one that accumulated over time,” he said. “Lack of participation has been a concern for years. SSSRA has had limited success growing the park district numbers by which they agreed and had continued to take action to make efforts with [little] success. I completely understand the relationship that develops with participants, staff, and instructors.”
The act of severing Frankfort Square’s agreement with the South Suburban Special Recreation Association, if approved, is not meant to deter residents from participating in programming, he said.
“If policies change requiring non-resident fees, the Park Board could elect to provide resident scholars if and when that became necessary,” Randall said.
Merk said officials don’t understand the full picture.
“I do understand that we would still be able to participate with the SSSRA but did you know that upon registration, my daughter would be placed on a waitlist as we are not considered in-district?” she asked. “Thus, my child may not be able to be in that program if it is full.”
Randall sought to lessen the concern raised by Merk.
“It’s my understanding at the present time that if you want to participate in LWSRA or SSSRA, there’s an agreement to make that happen,” he said. “There’s no problems, questions, or concerns. That may change in the future but as of right now, I don’t see any limiting factor other than if [the] SSSRA board decides to change that policy. If they do decide to change that policy, you can be accommodated by the LWSRA. Then, there might be other options.”
Randall stressed that the board’s decision is by no means viewed as a cost-savings.
“Some of what transpired over the last six months took place in closed-session, and it’s related to personnel or litigation and can’t be publicly discussed,” he said.
The Frankfort Square Park District is obligated to follow the articles of agreement formed with South Suburban Special Recreation Association. It stipulates how a one-year notice is required prior to severing ties.
“We’ve provided that notice—which is almost 45 days ago—that we would like to leave now and join LWSRA,” Randall said. “We have yet to receive a response from SSSRA.”
Merk said she still remains concerned for the Park District’s decision to separate from the South Suburban Special Recreation Association.
Randall urged residents to understand that Frankfort Square officials intend to work as good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
“We do have populations that aren’t accessing opportunities [through SSSRA,] and we’re paying a lot,” Randall said.
Between 15 and 17 residents participated in Lincoln-Way Special Recreation Association programming through the winter, spring and summer of 2016.
Frankfort Square officials do not have full disclosure in terms of the number of residents that utilized South Suburban Special Recreation Association programs in 2016.
“If you talk to anyone, we have always been the strongest advocates for SSSRA programming or any programs benefitting this community,” Randall said.
FSPD hopes to enter into the agreement as soon as possible, but cannot do so until it severs its ties to SSSRA.
Randall did not refute the possibility of the board overturning its decision to separate from the South Suburban Special Recreation Association.
“I won’t speak for the board,” he said.