Galesburg aldermen closed the beach's water slide and stopped paying for lifeguards about one year ago in an effort to save money. Now, with another summer approaching, Tony Oligney-Estill, Director of Parks and Recreation, said two people talked to him about privatizing beach management so it can be reopened.
“I wasn’t really entertaining this idea to begin with. And so I allowed the people that approached me to put forth a proposal,” he said.
Oligney-Estill said one proposal was shelved because it did not include money for hiring lifeguards.
But he other merited consideration. It came from Michele Dennis, who’s general manager of the Sandburg Mall.
Dennis said she would oversee operations at the beach for the next three years. She would hire around 17 lifeguards, open the waterslide, and manage the concession stand and boat rentals. Dennis said she would look into the possibility of adding features such as mini-golf.
Galesburg city administration estimated the city could save $30,000 by having the beach privately run.
Dennis’ proposal was placed on the April 3 city council agenda. Aldermen typically receive their city council packet on the Wednesday before a meeting. The packet includes the agenda and documents related to items on it.
First Ward Alderwoman Angela Bastian said she knew nothing about the plan until she went through her packet. She said the plan is something she might support but she had a lot of questions about it, including what the city would be liable for under a privatized management agreement.
"I just feel that there was not enough information, and especially popping it into the agenda with no idea the city was working on this, it was unusual and unfortunate for us to be able to make a decision with no information and clarity," Bastian said.
Other aldermen also asked for more information so the proposal was tabled. The earliest it could come up again for a vote is April 17.
Oligney-Estill said the plans had been in the works since December.
City Attorney Bradley Nolden said the city did not have to put the project out for bid because it's not a public utility or improvement project.