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Board of Commissioner Minutes – Jan. 18

Winnebago County Forest Preserve District
BOARD MEETING
District Headquarters
January 18, 2012

PRESENT STAFF
Randy Olson – President Tom Kalousek, Executive Director
Judy Barnard Mike Scheurich, Attorney
Mary McNamara- Bernsten Mike Durand, Golf
Audrey Johnson Tom Hartley, Land and Development
Gloria Lind Vaughn Stamm, Preserve Operations
Cheryl Maggio Jamie Johannsen, Marketing
Steve Chapman, Finance
Judi Day, Budget and Personnel
Mike Groves, Natural Resources

GUESTS – see attached list of guests.

ROLL CALL
The meeting was called to order at 5:34 PM. Recording secretary Ronelle Johnson called the roll.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE Audrey Johnson led the assemblage in the Pledge of Allegiance.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES Minutes for January 11 were approved.

PRESENTATIONS

2012 Natural Resource Restoration Plan – Executive Director Tom Kalousek and Tom Hartley – Tom Kalousek distributed the 2012 Resource Management Restoration Manual to the Commissioners and introduced Mike Groves, Natural Resource Manager. He reminded them that the goal is to restore land to its pre-settlement natural vegetation state and then highlighted a few accomplishments of the 2011 year.

Pine Tree Removal – Tom Hartley and John Nelson, Nature Preserves Commission – Tom Hartley reiterated that most of the pines taken were red and scotch pine. He then showed a few pictures of Sugar River Alder before and after the removal of the trees in 2009. John Nelson then spoke to the Board and gave a brief overview of his education and experience. He indicated that it is not unusual for preserves and conservation districts do this kind of tree removal on a regular basis. The pine plantations were not native, and a lot of them were unhealthy, stagnant, and over mature. Cutting down trees is shocking, and can be upsetting, but if you give it time, let it heal, it will grow according to plan. He said the staff has been great with their restoration efforts.

PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
Randy Olson advised the guests that if they have direct complaints, they should be directed to him. The Board and the staff admit they had some communication breakdowns in this process. Randy apologized for the errors, and promised to do a better job in the future.

Mike Kearney spoke to the Board regarding the selection of the new commissioner. He has been to several board meetings and was pleased on January 11 to see that the Board had come to a consensus for the process of selecting the new commissioner. He hopes that the future board members will have more discussion and give more thought to issues. In looking back at the notes, he sees there are several 3-4 votes and that is unsettling to him. He also indicated in listening to Pam Clark Reidenbach’s presentation for a strategic plan, most groups wanted some advisory committees. His suggestions would be a land acquisition committee, and a land resource management committee (including people like John Nelson, users, equestrians, and hunters).

Katie Townsend – She too is encouraged by the Board of late. She is a strong user of the preserves. The Board has an awesome mission, encompassing natural land access for outdoor commission. Human resources must be tapped and used effectively. She believes all seven commissioners need to be actively involved. The public deserves input and expertise of these commissioners. She appreciates what went on at the January 11 meeting, but would like to continue to have qualified leadership to have the abilities to fulfill the mission. There have been good developments for the replacement, and that approach needs to continue at every level. Please allow the same format of group consensus to continue – from drafting of the job description, interview questions, to writing and selection – for Tom Kalousek’s position.

Paul Arena – He addressed the Board regarding their conduct for the tree removal at Roland Olson. Roland Olson was an area many enjoyed and the impact has been significant on a lot of people who used that preserve. The law outlines the procedures for the bidding process, and he feels the Board failed to follow that process. The excuse that there was no other willing bidder does not relieve the Board of the process and he feels the Board failed to follow procedure. He wants the Board to halt removal and tell people a mistake was made.

Mary Weeks Baxter – She also addressed the board regarding the tree removal at Roland Olson. She understands that restoration and plan is important, but residents needed notice of what was happening. The forest was destroyed over the Christmas holiday and the timing made it difficult to contact anybody. Cutting trees is not a housekeeping matter when 4,237 trees are cut down. The District’s website says the goal is to protect natural beauty, and she feels the Board forgot about the human element involved. Many are heartbroken and she urges the Board to remember the heartbreak as decisions are made in the future.

Tom Castrey addressed the board regarding the tree removal. He is an avid user of the forest preserves. He reminded the Commissioners that this is a forest preserve, not a prairie preserve. He wants to enjoy the woods, not a prairie. He understands the natural resource program is to restore these lands to their natural habitat but some of those trees were 30 years old, not 35 and he feels the District could have waited. He was very distressed that the public finds out after it has happened, after a contract is signed, and there was nothing they could do to stop the process. Next time please consider public meetings at the locations that are being considered for tree removal. We enjoy our trees, and they will die, but the Board should take the mission statement to heart and promote and protect the trees they have.

Travis Castrey is also a frequent user of the preserves and appreciates the Board always trying to acquire new lands. He feels the pines are native to Illinois and that there was no advance notice. He was overwhelmed and saddened at the removal and didn’t understand why all native trees in Roland Olson were removed. He implores the Board to think of future generations. Windswept prairie won’t be as popular as forest. We need to look and see where it was yesterday, where it is going tomorrow, and what is in the best interest of our people and our environment.

Gloria Maloney – Most of what she wanted to say has already been said and she would like to say please stop cutting down the forest, please leave them alone. She will never see the forest restored the way they were before, nor will her children. Hopefully her grandchildren and great grandchildren can see the beauty. She and her husband have been hiking and kayaking with their families, and they are memories. The floor of pine needles is part of the attraction because you can walk through and it is peaceful and wonderful.

Virginia Schmidt and Tim Gruner will be given the opportunity to speak at the next meeting.

A guest in the audience then asked if they could get a response to what was said. Randy Olson said if the Board or staff feel like a public hearing or forum is needed, the District will look at doing it in the future. A few more guests in the audience asked for apologies, and indicated the District had taken away all of their memories. Randy Olson reiterated his apology for lack of communication. He also then stated that they are done cutting trees and are removing the fallen trees at this point. The restoration plan is getting started now.

CLOSED SESSION
The meeting closed at 6:20 PM to discuss the union contract and the status of possible land acquisition properties. The meeting returned to open session at 7:25. Randy Olson announced no action was taken while in closed session.

ACTION ITEMS
Union Contract – Judy Barnard made a motion to approve the 3-year contract with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. Motion passed unanimously.

2012 Board schedule – Judy made a motion to approve the meeting dates of the Winnebago County Forest Preserve District Board meetings for 2012, to be held at 5:30 PM at District Headquarters on the third Wednesday of every month. This resolution does not change the one adopted on December 6; it merely lists each specific meeting date. Motion passed unanimously.

Request for easement – Tom Hartley presented a proposal to the Board from IDOT. They are planning to improve Illinois Route 2 at the South Main and Harrison intersection with a bike trail. The District owns the northeast corner of the intersection and IDOT would like to purchase a temporary easement to last three years to construct an entrance and grade backslope. When this property was purchased it was originally meant to be given to the Rockford Park District, and the property has no significant conservation value to the District. Judy made a motion to approve a temporary easement of 0.148 acres on the northeast corner of South Main and Harrison Street to the Illinois Department of Transportation for $4,000 and would like to request that the money be deposited into the new Land Acquisition Fund. Motion passed unanimously.

Budget amendment – The District has received a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Fund for $235,000. This money was deposited in the Land Acquisition Fund 3301. Since there were no expenses budgeted for land acquisition in the 2012 budget in this fund, this budget amendment will provide appropriations for land acquisition. Audrey Johnson made a motion to approve the ordinance amending the 2012 budget to include monies for land acquisition. Motion passed unanimously. Also noted, that the grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Fund will be used to acquire the property on the Deer Run addition.

Budget amendment – new bond fund – Steve Chapman advised the Commissioners that the District closed on the sale of bonds on December 13 and a wire has been received for $250,000 which will be put into a separate land acquisition fund. Audrey made a motion that Fund 3306 is hereby created for the purpose of purchasing land, and that Fund 3206 is hereby created for the purpose of reducing the bond debt. Motion passed unanimously.

Policy on legal opinions – Over the last several months, various Commissioners have asked the District’s Attorney for legal opinions or interpretations on various aspects of the Forest Preserve Statutes, Code, and other related items. Gloria Lind made a motion to authorize the District’s Attorney or Executive Director to distribute all requested legal opinions to all Commissioners, the Executive Director, and the Board Assistant Secretary. Motion passed unanimously.

Commissioner vacancy selection process – Pam Clark Reidenbach drafted some questions that will be asked of each candidate and distributed a scoring matrix to the Commissioners. Candidates will be asked to submit a resume in addition to the questionnaire. The deadline for applications is February 1. Audrey moved to approve the application/questionnaire and scoring matrix to be used in the selection process for replacement of a Commissioner. Motion passed unanimously.

Expansion of Pam Clark Reidenbach Contract – Judy made a motion to contract with the Northern Illinois Center for Nonprofit Excellence, under the direction of Pam Clark Reidenbach, for facilitation of the District’s search process for a new Executive Director to replace Tom Kalousek, such process to include the Director Search Service. Motion passed unanimously. It was further discussed that Tom Kalousek’s vacancy would be posted on the District’s website, IAPD’s website for $150/month, and the County’s website. Pam will assist the District in putting together a job description and a profile of ideal candidates.

BOARD DISCUSSION

Report of Atlanta conference – Audrey Johnson gave a report on her attendance at the Atlanta conference. She shared what she learned about foundations, managing natural areas, equestrians, security in preserves, recession tips and strategies, paddling, effectively using volunteers, and commissioner boot camp.

Campaign signs on District properties – Randy mentioned that he would like to see the Forest Preserves allow campaign signs. In the past, Tom Kalousek had been approached about candidates putting campaign signs in forest preserves, and he indicated that there was a previous ordinance not allowing them on property entrances. Attorney Scheurich advised the Commissioners that public land is open as part of the first amendment, and voting signs are acceptable. He then outlined the restrictions, and indicated that the size can be regulated. Vaughn Stamm said that in the past the operation staff has been instructed to remove them if they impeded vision. Judy would like to lay this over to the next meeting and ask other forest preserves their policies. Tom Kalousek requested that Attorney Scheurich put together some guidelines for the next meeting. He then indicated that the Rockford Park District’s policy says the candidates can place signs in parks. Tom then said during the last election, the District followed what the County was doing and told people they cannot put signs in the preserves. The Commissioners agreed to wait for Attorney Scheurich’s suggested policy.

Easter egg hunt – Randy told the Board that he has received a request from “the Undertaker” that he would like to do an Easter egg hunt in the forest preserves, and he would also like to do a motorcycle rally ride. Tom Kalousek will have Vaughn Stamm meet with him to see what he will need. Mary McNamara Bernsten thinks highlighting a certain forest preserve is a good idea, so people recognize and remember certain events happening at certain preserves.

Facebook – Mary would like to see daily updates or status postings on Facebook so that people are seeing what the District is doing and what is going on. Judy would like to see more photos of the different preserves every day.

STAFF REPORTS

2012 deer management report – Vaughn Stamm gave a report to the Commissioners as to this year’s efforts of the sharpshooting and how it is consistent with the District’s past practices. He has had several meetings with the IDNR biologists who have strongly encouraged the District to keep up with its deer management program. IDNR says if it isn’t continued, the CWD numbers will spike back up very quickly. The biggest cost continues to be processing of the venison. IDNR supplements the processing on occasion and they agreed to the District dropping off two or three at their facility. Audrey would like to stop sharpshooting until next year. She made a motion proposing a no-cull season, seconded by Gloria Lind. After much discussion about the IDNR partnering with the District and their expertise in this region regarding wildlife management, CWD, their studies, data, and the cooperation between the District and IDNR, Randy asked Audrey to amend her motion. Audrey withdrew her motion to stop the culling. Judy made a motion for the District to continue to reduce the herd along the Kishwaukee corridor but to suspend the permit allowing the IDNR to do any further deer reduction in any of the requested preserves until additional information is secured. The Board is requesting the names of the preserves and the number of deer removed in the last 5 years, and how many of those removed had CWD. Motion passed 5 to 1 (Audrey voted No).

ANNOUNCEMENTS and COMMUNICATIONS

Opens Meetings Act training – Commissioners were provided a memo stating their requirement to complete the training online.

IPRA Annual Conference – January 26-29 in Chicago. There is a luncheon on Friday 11:45, and at 3:00, the Illinois Association of Conservation Forest Preserve Districts annual meeting, will be at the Open Land Headquarters. The joint Forest Preserve District and Park District dinner is confirmed at 7:00.

Next strategic planning dates – The Commissioners would like to do a Saturday from 9 to noon or 9 to 1, to go over all the information, if possible. Judy will get the dates from everyone. Mary requested Saturday afternoons, if possible.

Pheasants Forever banquet – Thursday, February 16 at Giovanni’s – if attending contact Vaughn.

ADJOURNMENT
Meeting adjourned at 8:55 PM.
Next board meeting 5:30 PM Wednesday, February 15, at District Headquarters