Illinois Campground Fiasco Deepens
Crews had to assist volunteers trying to remove the thousands of Christmas lights at the Community Park camping grounds in Roodhouse, Ill., Friday (March 25) after Greene County Department of Corrections inmates were pulled off the job — again.
"We will have the campgrounds ready to open on schedule April 1," Roodhouse Mayor Joe Snyder said late Friday. "The most important thing is for the city to keep the goodwill of the loyal campers that enjoy our campgrounds."
The Roodhouse City Council held an emergency meeting March 21 and, on a 4-2 vote, removed all the sitting members on the park board, which was established by referendum in 1930, according to The Alton Telegraph.
The action was the result of Park Board President Jim Roady, Vice Chairman Vern Goodman and caretaker Pat Inman’s letter and deposits sent to registered campers for the 2011 camping season, telling them the campground would not be open by April 1.
Multiple telephone calls from registered campers to the city complaining about it prompted Snyder to call the emergency meeting, ask for the removal of all sitting park board members and the hiring of a new caretaker.
Besides the letter sent to the registered campers, Roady is alleged to have interfered with the removal of Christmas light displays at the campgrounds by Pastor Dave Prosser, who set up the display annually, with the assistance of inmates from the Greene County Department of Corrections facility, prior to the emergency meeting.
On Friday, Prosser, who has left the Roodhouse community for a church in Alton, again volunteered to remove the lights, again after getting inmates from the correctional facility and local volunteers to help.
And again, Roady went to the campground and told the lieutenant in charge of the inmates that Roodhouse still had issues and "that the mayor and the council took illegal action" at a meeting, and the matter was not resolved.
"I did not tell the lieutenant to take the prisoners away," Roady said Friday. "I just told him the mayor and council took illegal action, and the lieutenant said he did not want to have his inmates in the middle of a mess, and they left."
Roady stands on the grounds that the city has no authority over the park board because it was established by referendum. He also contends that a city ordinance adopted in 2005 has the five-member board — with terms of service set at one, two, three, four and five years — appointed by the mayor with the advice and consent of the city council, per Illinois state statutes.
"I and the council do not disagree that it was set by referendum, or of the ordinance," Snyder said Friday. "We removed the board members because their actions — sending letters to campers stating the campground would not be open April 1, and enclosing the registered campers’ deposits — were detrimental to our campers and for city revenues."
Snyder said city crews would have to be used again Monday, along with local volunteers, to remove the remaining Christmas lights. In the meantime, he said, City Attorney Anne Clough is working to seek a civil remedy for the situation with the former Park Board members.
The City Council’s Park and Recreation Committee has assumed responsibility for park board duties.
"We are hoping that we can get the inmates back for Monday, but if not, we will use our city crews and whatever volunteers we can get, because we will have the campground ready to open April 1," Snyder said.