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Park District Baord

Carbondale Park Board member Jane Adams addresses the board Wednesday.

CARBONDALE — Citing a need to keep the lights on, the Carbondale Park District Board has voted to extend a $3 million bond by five years, incurring more than $300,000 in extra interest payments.

The votes to extend the bond were from members Carmen Suarez, Jessica Sergeev and Carl Flowers. Board members Jane Adams and Kirsten Trimble voted against the measure.

The decision would refinance the loan and extend its payoff by five years, maturing the bond in 2035. This will free up around $100,000 from the district's yearly payment. However, the added years will also add interest payments.

There was an alternative that drew significant support from spectators who spoke during the meeting as well as vocal support from Adams. This was to refinance the bond debt, saving about $25,000 but keeping the payoff date the same.

Prior to the meeting, Adams had raised concern over the extension plan, indicating that she thought it a bad move financially to charge the taxpayers $300,000 for a savings that would not bail out one of the district’s biggest financial liabilities, the Hickory Ridge Golf Course.

Some saw the extension as a means to an end — one way for the park district to meet its financial obligations. However, others said it didn’t address the real problems, which are the obligations themselves.

These points were brought up during board discussion Wednesday.

“We have to do something that isn’t kicking the can down the road,” Adams said in her comments. She said that the extra $80,000 in the yearly bond payment would not begin to fix the financial shortfalls.

“We can’t borrow our way out of the crisis we are in,” she said.

Sandy Litecky attended the meeting and spoke on the issue.

“I urge you to vote for the footprint. It’s time the district comes to its senses,” she said.

Carbondale City Councilman Adam Loos also spoke. He commented on the social justice problem with taxing low to moderate income residents to pay interest payments to wealthy bond holders.

He also addressed Suarez’s comments to The Southern on Tuesday that the extension was like refinancing the house and borrowing extra money to fix up the kitchen.

“It’s not like that,” he said. He said it’s like borrowing extra to pay the light bill.

After hearing dissenting opinions against the extension, Sergeev said she also disagreed with the home refinance analogy but also said she wasn’t sure there was another option.

“There are essentials that we need to provide,” she said. “We do need this to keep the lights on.”

She said she was also concerned that should finances not improve in the next 10 years, the interest rate may not be competitive if the board needed to refinance again.

During the next board meeting in August, board members will meet with members of Carbondale’s city leadership to discuss a potential merger or absorption of park district functions by the city, which some see as a way to correct the park district’s financial problems and sustain it in the future.

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isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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