Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves says no to referendum vote on $21 million funding for village owned sports complex, taxpayers could still be on the hook for shortfall.
An eight person delegation representing the group “Let Us Vote (LUV) Lemont” met this past Wednesday evening at the village hall with Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves for a 2 hour question and answer session regarding the proposed rental sports complex. Plans call for it to be built north of downtown on land leased from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD). “Let Us Vote” filed the petition signatures of over 1,700 village residents, nearly 1,000 more than the minimum number required, to get the issue on the spring primary ballot.
When asked if village revenues were pledged to cover any losses on the complex, Mayor Reaves answered yes, but countered that a reserve fund to cover future deficits was being established from expected profits garnered during the first two years of the loan when only interest would be paid. The mayor maintained that a catastrophic failure of the facility could only happen in the event of a national financial collapse. When questioned about the impact that $21 million more in loans would have on the existing village debt burden, currently in excess of $25 million, the mayor replied that village finances had been “stress tested” and did not yet approach the 60 to 70 million dollar legal borrowing limit.
Mayor Reaves also announced that private financing for the project had been secured through Mesirow Financial, lauded by the mayor for its “creative financing packages”. Because alternate bonds were no longer required, the referendum vote could be canceled according to the three bond counsels consulted by the village. “Let Us Vote” member Arlene Bergman declared that as a patriotic American she felt that it was undemocratic to cancel the vote. Others maintained that a project of this size and scope and with village revenues and credit rating at risk, deserved to face voter approval. The mayor retorted that he and the board had run unopposed and were elected to make decisions for the village. Those who disagree were invited to run for office.
The mayor defended the need for the facility by pointing out that community oriented youth sports programs such as AYSO soccer were in decline, while private elite traveling sports teams that can afford to rent such facilities are on the rise. The mayor cited his own example, admitting that he paid fees of $2,100 per season to a traveling volleyball club. Mayor Reaves also noted that he has received numerous pledges for rentals from travel clubs. When asked to provide the names of the committed teams, he denied the request on the grounds that the clubs must remain anonymous due to their existing contract obligations. He also said that rental demand for the complex would be high because rates would be significantly less than those charged at other local venues.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the “Let Us Vote” group presented the mayor with a list of 3 demands, the first asking for written responses to a list of 20 questions, including concerns about safety, increased traffic volumes, and contracts. They also called for a public referendum vote on the plan, no matter the type of funding, and that the village should actively work to raise “community awareness” about the issue through meetings and mailings.
Also representing “Let Us Vote Lemont” at the meeting were Al Beaudreau, Donna Brown, Janet Hughes, Jim Ladas, Rick Ligthart, Al Schroeder, and Rich Vitt. Village Trustees Paul Chialdikas and Clifford Miklos were also in attendance.