Plainfield Park Official: Bring Back Planning Department

Some board members not keen on consulting firm.

Credit: File photo
Credit: File photo
Amidst accusations that tax dollars were being used to line officials' pockets — not to mention alleged patronage hires — a representative from Hitchcock Design Group presented a overview of the work the firm has done since being retained by the Plainfield Park District in December.

At last week's meeting, Steve Connors of the Naperville-based firm talked about what's happening with discussion on projects including the DuPage River Trail, DuPage River Trail bridge, and proposed parking lot improvements at Four Seasons Park.

Board member Mary Kay Ludemann noted that, given the turmoil within the park district, it was a tense time for Connors' presentation.

"Obviously, this is not a good time for you to be here," she said. Ludemann also said she doesn't support keeping Hitchcock on as a consultant, but would rather see the return of the Plainfield Park District planning department.

"I would be happy if we had our planning staff back," she said, referring to Superintendent of Planning/Assistant Executive Director Cameron Bettin and Landscape Architect James Less, who reportedly resigned in late December.

Fellow board member Larry Newton agreed with Ludemann.

"I think it's the wrong decision to choose a planning consultant," Newton said at Tuesday night's meeting, but also acknowledged the tension by telling Connors, "I think you're put in a tough position."

Connors said Hitchcock has already billed the park district about $2,000 for its services, and expects the total to be around $5,000 through the end of January.

If that trend continued, Ludemann noted that the park district would pay Hitchcock $60,000 for the year. 

"I can't support your firm at this time," she said.

At least one board member seemed to support the consultants. Peter Steinys said dealing with Hitchcock is a "breath of fresh air," adding he didn't get the same level of communication from the previous planner, Bettin. 

Interim Executive Director Gene Coldwater, who previously served as superintendent of parks, said Bettin was slated to meet with him to offer planning assistance.

Coldwater also hinted that continuing to work with a consultant may not work out in the long run.

"The day may come that we decide we need an entirely different setup," he said. "We're not sure there will never be a planning department." Former Executive Director Garrett Peck previously said job vacancies in the planning department would not be filled after the resignations of Bettin and Less.

"Whatever assists the interim director right now, I think that's the key focus," commissioner Janet Silosky said. 

The next meeting of the Plainfield Park board is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 4, at the Plainfield Township Administration Building, 22525 W. Lockport St.

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Plainfield Independent February 10, 2014 at 05:16 PM
Board majority needs to resign and then bring back Cam Bettin! That would be a breath of fresh air.
Gabby February 10, 2014 at 08:15 PM
I didn't know park district boards got involved in operations; I thought their role was to represent the people and collaborate with the director to create a long-term strategy.
Larry Newton February 10, 2014 at 08:19 PM
For those of you who were not there, I have a very high professional opinion of Steve Konters and Hitchcock Design. They do very good work, but they never should have been involved in our Park District in this role. They are doing exactly the same tasks, and have the same qualifications, as our previous planning staff. The rationale for eliminating staff was that Hitchcock would do the work for less, but there was no scope of work and no plan for use of their services. What does that tell you about elimination of necessary in-house staff? This can still be reversed. President Hurtado, restore our Planning Department.
Vicky Polito February 10, 2014 at 08:42 PM
Anyone who's ever been in business or in public operational services in the US (or, beyond for that matter) knows that consultants don't cost less when you're doing a task-to-task, hour-to-hour match of work. Now, that doesn't say consultants don't do good work, can't be an effective tool, can't contribute to success of a certain endeavor, etc. They just won't be cheaper, ever. And when, as Comm. Newton points out, they have no real direction or project plan in place, then they really can't do the most for the dollar. You put your consultants in a position to fail, because you fail to plan. Same thing can happen with staff. It's a dumb way to do the work, to think that just writing checks accomplishes anything.
Jackie Darling February 10, 2014 at 09:17 PM
At least one board member seemed to support the consultants. Peter Steinys said dealing with Hitchcock is a "breath of fresh air," adding he didn't get the same level of communication from the previous planner, Bettin Mr. Steinys- Why don't you tell the good and honest people of Plainfield why you didn't supposedly "get the same level of communication" from Mr. Bettin???? Could it be because you wanted him to do something that wasn't ethical and he refused to do it? It doesn't take rocket science to figure out that you and majority 3 didn't like him.
Bad News Bears February 10, 2014 at 10:41 PM
Good one Jackie!!!! I remember that too. Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it? If Mr. Bettin and Mr. Less were ethical AND let go, what did the people who were promoted do to earn the "board majorities" trust and respect? Hmmmmm
t.rounsaville February 11, 2014 at 03:03 AM
I worked with Cameron Bettin while he was the Superintendent of Planning at the District. While the District was in rapid growth, Cameron successfully coordinated his department into a well-organized, smoothly functioning, essential unit of the Plainfield Park District. The District was very fortunate to have such a dedicated professional, as he worked hard to benefit taxpayers by accessing resources and putting them back into the community.
Think About It February 11, 2014 at 04:22 AM
Not just "Bring back our Planning Dept" which shouldbe done, but how about all residents start a "BRING BACK OUR PARK DISTRICT" campaign.
John Tips February 11, 2014 at 08:52 AM
The ONE thing most of us Tax Payers would like to see is a freeze on our tax bills from all taxing entities! Hiring consultants costs money - money which now is tight. Before spending our taxes, we should ask the board to first begin putting funds away for future projects, and NOT asking the people of Plainfield for more money! $$$$$ Fiscal responsibility should be first on the boards list. We taxpayers have to balance our checkbooks, and put a little away for rainy days and home repairs, the board, village, county, and state should be doing the same to avoid situations as when the housing bubble popped! *********** Remember all - we taxpayers are watching what you do!
YeaBigGuy February 11, 2014 at 11:03 AM
I'd like to second t.rounsaville. Hard to say that Mr. Bettin, while being recognized as professional of the year by a state parks and rec organization, would be bad at "communicating." It takes two parties to communicate to each other. One conveying....and one listening....
Frank G February 11, 2014 at 12:03 PM
The board majority's first act as a governing body was to screw Cameron Bettin. They set the tone of the discussion, basically saying he can't be trusted. The relationship was fractured from the start, and then they act surprised and say communication wasn't great? Well no kidding. You told him he had no voice, and that you weren't willing to listen.
Bad News Bears February 11, 2014 at 01:46 PM
John Tips, the PPD had money set aside in a contingency fund. The new "board majority" has been spending it on patronage jobs, promotions and raises (mostly to their trusted few employees), legal fees, new cars, remodeling the Peck's office, building new offices for the "board majority" at the Ottawa location (just heard about that one), hiring vendors that are friends of theirs, buying LED light bulbs from Hurtado's company, etc. Basically, they've been using money the previous boards, while acting fiscally responsible, set aside and they're spending it on themselves now.
Vicky Polito February 11, 2014 at 02:04 PM
And, BNB and neighbors, when the district is broke and has lost it's decent credit rating (because how much contingency saving you maintain is a contributing factor to that rating) and we need money to do the things we WANT to do that we already paid for, guess who will have to pull out their checkbooks again, to replenish all the money Peck, Hurtado, Silosky, Steinys, and Booth have essentially stolen from us by the choices they make and actions they take? Why, we, the taxpayers, will have to put all that money back! Worse, if a true disaster hits and we NEED those contingency funds badly what will we do then? It's disgusting, and they'll each be long gone, slinking off somewhere with no accountability! But, if we want our community to remain appealing and our property values to stay as strong as possible, we'll have to make up the difference and bring back quality parks and rec to compete for residents and business development, and that in turn will not look great to new-comers to the community because they'll be comparing the tax cost of moving here with going elsewhere, looking at the amenities Plainfield offered across the board. We did when we moved here, didn't others of you? Not to mention that one day or another, we'll need to build a new library and we'll have to keep developing our fire protection district and our village services and law enforcement and our schools. When these guys hurt our park district, they hurt all of Plainfield. We have to stop them asap and start turning this disaster into a recovery mission! We can do it, though.
Bad News Bears February 11, 2014 at 02:29 PM
Exactly Vicky. Hurtado is still screaming about transparency, however Doug Booth just got a $16,000 a year raise. He was hired as the Communications/IT Director. We, the taxpayers, paid for him to go to school because he has NO IT credentials. And the last I heard, he flunked his tests that we paid for, so he still doesn't have those credentials. Plus, I haven't heard of him communicating anything except "no comment". But he just got a $16,000 a year raise and no one has ever said why. That's not very transparent is it? Steinys son-in-law makes more than some of the people that have been there for years. And, correct me if I'm wrong, he doesn't have experience in the job he was hired for. Neither do most of the people hired since May. And the legal fees just keep going higher and higher. Resign Hurtado!!!! You are a disgrace to those commissioners who came before you!!!!! Stop spending my money and go away!!!!!
Vicky Polito February 11, 2014 at 02:43 PM
Oh, for the love of dog--check out the updated article from the Herald-News today: http://www.theherald-news.com/2014/02/10/hurtado-says-connection-to-company-is-coincidence/alwbdby/. In it, Hurtado says that he thinks Peck actually did a good job and that if he'd been there a few more months, he could have made the district money for years. TRY TO GET THIS THROUGH YOUR HEAD, YOU IDIOT: a park district is not about making money (especially if all you do is then steal it), it's about wisely spending tax dollars to deliver maximum quality services and facilities to the taxpayers who have said, yes, I want this in my community, please do it well for the money I contribute! Why is this so hard to understand? Again, Hurtado, Peck, their buddies only care about the almighty dollar and how much of it they can collect! In this article, Hurtado also says it's just a coincidence that the phone number related to the mysterious vendor of those LED lights was a phone number of one of his many dissolved companies and that PSA soccer--a success and leader in actually giving children something good in Plainfield for over three decades--is only for the rich kids! Peter Hurtado, you are a destructive fool, and you're not fooling anyone else.
Frank G February 11, 2014 at 03:24 PM
that's rich Vicky. He say's Peck was doing a good job, but in the next breath he basically blames Peck for all the hiring and shady deals (even though the new hires have links to the board members). So which is it Pete? If I were to believe in any conspiracy theory, it would be that Hurtado set Peck up to do all these shady things, so Hurtado could turn around and use it an an excuse to transfer power to the board, which he so happens to be president of.
Vicki Knight February 11, 2014 at 08:31 PM
I was at the meeting and nothing against Steve from Hitchcock, he seemed very knowledgeable but after Pete Steinys tried to throw Cameron Bettin under the bus for not having an engineering degree to find out that Steve did not either, and that both Cameron and Steve have the same type of degrees, it seems like a waste of the taxpayers money to be paying Hitchcock the money for what Cameron could be doing with his 100 contracted hours. Also, thank you Vicky P. for the link of the Hearld News article, all I can say is WHAT A JOKE!!!!!! I'm surprised a lightening rod has not come down and striked down PH.
Josh Herrara February 12, 2014 at 06:49 PM
Speaking of wasting money and extra legal fees does anyone know if the park district reinstated the gentlemen fired for being pro union? Did they miss that deadline as well?


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