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County commissioner responds to Swallow Cliff coverage

Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Elizabeth Doody Gorman

The Daily Southtown recently ran articles concerning Swallow Cliff and insinuated that there were some underhanded maneuvers going on. I would like to set the record straight on a few points.
 
It has been no secret that the revitalization of Swallow Cliff has been one of my major priorities since being elected commissioner of the 17th District. I thought it was tragic that the toboggan slides had fallen into such disrepair.
 
When the forest preserve issued their request for proposal — called an RFP — for a districtwide concession management company, I wrote letters to the editors of several newspapers urging anyone with ideas for saving Swallow Cliff to come forward. In fact, the Southtown was one of the newspapers that actually ran my letter in June 2006.
 
About the same time, Ron Urban contacted me with his proposal (described in Phil Kadner’s April 3 column), which would allow Swallow Cliff to be used for up to nine months of the year. I met with Ron a number of times and encouraged him to respond to the forest preserve’s RFP. I realized it probably would not be accepted, as the forest preserve was looking for a districtwide concession management company, but I thought it would be advantageous for his proposal to be seen. When the forest preserve board authorized negotiations to begin with Urban Concessions (no connection to Ron Urban) I made certain that representatives of Urban Concessions were made aware of Urban’s plans. It appeared that Urban Concessions thought Urban’s plans were viable and might work in their overall plans. I was very disappointed when the forest preserve board of commissioners decided not to go forward with the contract with Urban Concessions.
 
Since then, I was thrilled to promote and get the support from the board and the forest preserve to have the stairs at Swallow Cliff rebuilt, and the work on them will begin soon. It is certainly a good first step.
 
When it was reported that the forest preserve was going to present their report on the options regarding the toboggan slides, All Season (which has an exclusive contract in the United States for Snowflex — a snow-like, artificial surface) contacted me and asked if they could present their proposal for Swallow Cliff at the meeting of the recreation committee meeting I chair. Wanting to follow the rules and practices of the board, I advised them that they could not make a presentation at the committee meeting, as the proposal had not first been presented to the full board. I did tell them they had a right to come to the meeting, sign a sheet and speak for three minutes as any citizen may at any of our committee meetings. They did prepare an 11-page proposal, which was distributed to the members of the committee. After Shawn Temple spoke on behalf of All Season, a few of the commissioners were very interested in the concept and requested more information. In fact, one of the commissioners suggested the forest preserve be authorized to begin negotiations with All Season.
 
Again, wanting our process to be open and include all possibilities, and after conferring with Supt. Steve Bylina, I suggested it would be best for the forest preserve to issue an RFP that would give any company with a proposal the right to present it to the board.
 
At the same meeting, the forest preserve advised the board on the cost of each option for the toboggan slides. Options included demolition, refurbishment and an artificial refrigeration process. After learning of these costs and being advised of the minimal amount of revenue received when the slides were operational (as they had to rely on Mother Nature to supply the right ingredients), the committee decided artificial surfaces should be investigated. In this way, the weather would not be a factor in operation and would allow the areas to be used more months of the year and actually might prove to be revenue generators.
 
Our committee meeting was March 28. On March 30, my staff contacted Urban and advised him of what had occurred at the committee meeting and again urged him to present a proposal to the forest preserve when its new RFP is issued. It was explained to him that this proposal probably would have a better chance than the last one he offered as this would be a site-specific RFP and not districtwide as was the last one. I am anxious for Urban to present his new proposal and had no intention of “lifting” his plan as indicated in Kadner’s April 3 column. The All Season plan vastly differs from Urban’s vision for Swallow Cliff, contrary to Kadner’s opinion.
 
One last point I would like to make concerning the Southtown articles: One insinuated I attempted to hide any history that Shawn Temple had with me or my family. This is totally inaccurate. I advised the reporter that Temple had worked for our company years ago — that we had been in touch, but not consistently, as is often the case after someone works for you. The reporter and I actually had a conversation trying to pin down the years specifically, but the article’s tone seemed to indicate I was trying to hide something. That is simply not the case. Temple has moved on to other avenues and now is in the employ of All Seasons — not the owner, an employee.
 
I really take exception to the inaccuracies and innuendoes in both articles. They mislead the public. My only concern in this matter is the same it has been for the past five years and will continue to be until our ultimate goal is reached — the revitalization of Swallow Cliff.
 
Elizabeth Doody Gorman, Republican of Orland Park, is Cook County commissioner from the 17th District.


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