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Park board must decide on new superintendent as it considers its options for golf course

March 29, 2016 – The Rantoul Park Board must find a replacement to oversee operations at Brookhill Golf Course as well as determine its future.

The board on Thursday discussed finding a replacement for Brookhill Superintendent Joie Torres and conducting a public survey on the future of the golf course property.

Board President Gary Hardin said Torres took a job in south Champaign after having served as superintendent for about five years.

The board will determine whether to hire a superintendent or to fill the job with a part-time person. Fortunately, there are several veteran employees remaining at the golf course to take up some of the slack, board members said.

The future of the golf course, located north of Rantoul, is in doubt because of a struggling financial condition. The board proposed the swap of Brookhill with Willow Pond Golf Course located on the former Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, but the idea hit a road block when it was discovered that Brookhill had been developed partly with federal grant money. A provision of the grant was that the property — or land for which it is swapped — must remain a publicly owned outdoor recreational facility.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which administered the grant, is also requiring that an additional appraisal and other provisions be met before the park district receives an OK to swap the land, which would mean the park district would likely get out of the golf business and turn most of the Willow Pond land into park and other recreational use. Hardin said Willow Pond owner Kevin Applebee said if the swap is going to happen, it must go forward this year.

Board Secretary Bill Scott said the other provisions include an environmental impact study, a redevelopment plan, exhibit that a suitable recreational facility is planned and conduct a public hearing.

At a meeting last fall, Willow Pond area residents turned out en masse to object to the proposal — partly because of the possibility that a portion of the Willow Pond grounds would be converted to farmland. But park board members Thursday said the farmland option was never their intention.

Among the alternative possibilities discussed for Brookhill were converting it into park land with a walking trail.

Board member Rich Thomas estimated it would cost the park district between $45,000 and $60,000 a year to maintain Brookhill as a park area also with Frisbie golf and soccer golf.

Thomas said Frisbie golf tournaments are held throughout the area almost every weekend.

‘There’s a lot more interest than you might think,’ Thomas said. ‘I think soccer golf would be the biggest user. You wouldn’t have to do anything but the hole; mow the grass with a trim mower.’

Thomas said perhaps it’s time the park district ‘get out of the parks business’ — possibly giving them to the village of Rantoul. The village has not indicated whether it would accept the parks.

Hardin said the park district pays the village $86,000 a year to mow the parks. Getting out of the parks business and reducing the cost to operate the Brookhill property would greatly cut down the park district’s expenses. The district levies $210,000 a year in property taxes, according to Scott.

Hardin said he believes the public survey will also inform the public of the options available. Brookhill cannot be sold for farmland.

Rantoul residents are also invited to make comments and provide suggestions to the survey. The options include:

1) continue business as usual, recognizing that the park district must keep the Brookhill facility as an outdoor public recreation area, as it cannot be converted to farmland;

2) convert Brookhill into an alternative outdoor public recreational area with a view to minimizing the cost to taxpayers;

3) pursue the exchange with the owner of Willow Pond, understanding that a plan for redevelopment of Willow Pond must be submitted as a part of this process, as it cannot be converted to farmland;

4) pursue the idea of conveying some part or all of the park district properties to the village with a goal of reducing the amount of the park district tax levy;

5) seek a management agreement whereby Brookhill could be managed by a third party for a set fee, which would cap the park district’s cash outlay.

Suggestions may be delivered to the golf course or to Scott’s office at 123 N. Garrard St., Rantoul, IL 61866; faxed to 217-893-4788; or emailed to brookhillgc@gmail.com or office@ak-law.com

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