Ballot question asks about possible Carbondale Park District mer - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Ballot question asks about possible Carbondale Park District merger

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CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A question on the ballot for Carbondale voters next month asks if they want the city of Carbondale to take over operations for the Carbondale Park District.

The city of Carbondale and the Carbondale Park District have been discussing how to manage the city's parks for more than a year, with the city owning several parks and contracting the park district to maintain them.

Some of those leases have expired and the district is struggling to maintain others with the budget it has.

So at a meeting last year, the council decided to place a question on the April ballot, asking voters if they like the idea of merging operations.

The vote isn't binding and a number of steps have to be taken if the operations merge.

How the city handles the district's debt, where the district's property tax money goes, all to be determined.

"The actual district has been around (for 50 years), we expect to be around for the next 50 years," park district board president Carl Flowers said.

Flowers said the district provides several services vital to the city.

"My concern is that some of the services, some of the things the park district currently offers, may not be as important if we were put under the city," Flowers said.

But he's not dismissing the idea of a merger.

"I'm willing to be open to exploring it, sure," Flowers said. "I don't know that I'm ready to say the actual park district should be taken over by the city."

There are specific rules dictating how voters can get a question on the ballot asking to officially dissolve the district and once they do, the resolution needs a two-thirds majority to pass.

Other circumstances would allow the district to dissolve as well, but the two governing bodies would have to work together on a resolution.

"The referendum is advisory only so in order for the City and the park district to explore the possibility of the merger, it would require the cooperation of each board," Carbondale city manager Gary Williams said.

The vote April 2 won't officially do anything, but it'll give leaders an idea of where the public stands.

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