Colona community center, park board face fierce opposition

A plan to build a new $4.5-million community center in Colona, Illinois is getting some heat from local residents who say they don’t want to pay higher taxes to help pay for it.

“Four million dollars. We can’t afford it out here. This is a small community,” said Colona resident Don Lind.  “The people that want to use it, let them form their own club and sell memberships.”

The Colona Park district is a taxing body, separate from the village. It was formed back in 1998, in part, to build a community center.  The facility would include a fitness center, pool, meeting space, and recreational space.

Board President Tony Alexander says they’ve applied for a $2.5-million grant from the state to offset about half the cost of the center.

If the grant falls through, Alexander says, residents who own a $100,000 house could pay about $130 more in taxes per year.

That’s what riles up resident Tom Jones, who is now passing petitions to try to disband the Park Board entirely.

“It’s the principal. They’re not listening to the people.  People should have  a right to vote on it. They want to build a four-million-dollar building, and it’s going to be on the taxpayers to pay for it. We can’t afford it out here,” Jones said.  “I’m saying, ‘Get rid of it.'”

He needs 1,100 verified signatures to try and get a referendum, to dissolve the board, on the Nov. 4th ballot. There are 8,000 residents in the district.

Alderman Mike King says he’s all for a facility that benefits young and old, but believes the project may have to be scaled back.

“People can’t afford a tax raise right now. The Park District can raise our taxes based on their current tax levy, they can raise it quite a bit without going to referendum,”  King said.

The board was set to meet Friday, July 11, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.