The following is a letter to the editor from Wilmette resident Dave Keenan. It has been signed by 100 residents, according to Keenan.
The Wilmette Park District is considering spending more of your tax dollars on an ill-conceived plan to take over operations of Wilmette Harbor. You can prevent this by calling or emailing right now to let them know you do not want your tax dollars spent subsidizing such activities.
Background: For 75 years, a not-for-profit organization called the Wilmette Harbor Association (WHA) has operated Wilmette Harbor pursuant to a lease with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), the owner of the property. Costs of harbor operation—which include legal responsibility for maintaining the silt basin of the north branch of the Chicago River—are paid for by the mooring holders, who currently number about 100 Wilmette residents and about 200 non-Wilmette residents.
The MWRD lease with WHA expires after this summer and WHA wants to renew the lease. However, the Wilmette Park District Board has stated that it plans to compete with WHA in order to gain control of Wilmette Harbor operations. This is a bad idea for obvious reasons:
1) Wilmette residents who want a boat at Wilmette Harbor can get one and pay accordingly. Residents who don’t want a boat, don’t pay for other people’s boats. If Wilmette Park District takes over harbor operations, all Wilmette taxpayers will subsidize the activities of 100 Wilmette residents and twice as many non-residents at Wilmette Harbor.
2) Wilmette Park District has no experience running a harbor or maintaining a silt basin critical to the Chicago area, including the North Shore. Simply put, they don’t know what they don’t know. This exposes you, the Wilmette taxpayer, to legal and operational problems which could create a multi-million (yes, multi-million) dollar liability.
This is not a situation where Wilmette residents are being turned away from a local resource. Any resident wanting to join the active community of boaters at Wilmette Harbor may do so at any time and is welcomed to apply for a mooring. It is important to note that MWRD municipal leases contain non-discrimination language which would prevent Wilmette residents from getting priority or preferred rates compared to non-residents even if the Wilmette Park District took over the lease.
CALL OR EMAIL RIGHT NOW
The Wilmette Park District is your taxing body and Wilmette taxpayers have incurred enough of a tax burden. Spending tens of millions of dollars to benefit an incredibly small number of boaters just so the Wilmette Park District can say it “owns” the Harbor is ludicrous. For 75 years, harbor users have paid their own way without subsidy from Wilmette taxpayers and there is no reason to change that now.
Please contact the Wilmette Park District Board by calling (847) 256-6100 or emailing the Park Board President, James Brault, at email@example.com. Let them know that you do not want your tax dollars spent in this fashion.