CHAMPAIGN - Improving Sholem Pool and offering more bicycle and walking paths are among the priorities of the three candidates for the Champaign Park District board.
Two park board seats with six-year terms are being contested in the April 1 election.
The candidates for those two seats include 28-year incumbent board member Morgan Powell, real estate developer Jerald Ramshaw Jr. and Joseph Petry, a clinical professor in economics at the University of Illinois.
Powell, a 67-year-old orthodontist, said he is seeking another term because "I just enjoy it, and I know quite a bit about it."
Powell said the park district's two swimming pools, Sholem, 2200 Sangamon Drive, and Spalding, 910 Harris Ave., are both older and need of extensive renovation or replacement. But he said that because of district's finances, repairing the pools is the best option at this point.
"We'll patch them up," he said. "It's time to do a major study to see about replacement. We may need a bond issue to replace them."
Petry, 40, an economist, said he moved back to Champaign two years ago after spending 10 years out east. Petry said the move back was part of a conscious decision to devote more time to family and community, and that running for the park board is part of that commitment.
Petry said updating the two pools is a top priority for him as well. He said he would love to see the park district develop a water park, though he said financial considerations might not make that feasible.
"I love the idea of a water park," he said. "It'll depend on how much it costs."
Both Petry and Ramshaw said that if they are elected, they will make improving and increasing the number of bicycle and walking paths a top priority.
Petry said he would like to see a bike path built west to Mahomet.
"I think that would be neat," he said. "There's a lot of people in this community that bike."
Ramshaw, 45, calls himself "a serious biker" who said he would love to see a multicounty bicycle path built in the area.
"We need more walking paths and bike paths, not just in Champaign, but countywide," Ramshaw said. "I'd like to see a more cohesive plan linking paths in Champaign, Urbana, Savoy and the University of Illinois."
Ramshaw said he, too, decided to run for the park board to give back to the community. He said parks are important to Champaign's quality of life. He noted he helped build the youth football field in Zahnd Park.
A real estate developer, Ramshaw is developing Turnberry Ridge subdivision in Champaign. After talking with former Champaign Park District Director Bob Toalson, Ramshaw said he scrapped a plan to locate a park for his subdivision on property near Interstate 57 and instead selected a 5-acre park location in the center of the subdivision. The park will also be served by walking and bicycling trails.
Ramshaw said he believes the park has enhanced the attractiveness of Turnberry Ridge. As a park board member, he said he believes he can persuade fellow developers to follow a similar "win-win" path.
Improving or replacing Sholem Pool is also a top priority, Ramshaw said, noting the pool still is popular.
All three candidates said they see the Virginia Theatre in - Champaign as a park district asset that should continue to be upgraded. Ramshaw said private donations should be sought to help fund any upgrades and that improvements should be phased in over several years.
Petry said he also believes private fund-raising will be needed for the Virginia. He said he'd like to encourage unique events at the Virginia along the lines of the popular Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival, which will be held from April 23-27 this year.
Powell said the theater is now up to code, thanks to a $900,000 state grant. He said replacing the old seats at the theater is one of the projects that needs to be accomplished.
Joseph A. Petry
Street address: 2616 Stillwater Drive, C.
Phone number: 352-6404
Born in: Champaign. Moved back two years ago after 10 years away from community.
Occupation: Clinical professor of economics and finance, University of Illinois.
Political experience: None
Family: Married to Ann Flanagan-Petry.
Street address: 107 N. Elm St., C.
Born in: Champaign
Member of park board since 1975.
Political experience: Served on Illinois Association of Park Districts board of directors, including term as president in 1983. Served two terms on the National Recreation Park Association. Former board member at First Federal Savings Bank and former chairman of holding company that owns First Federal, called Great American Bancorp. U.S. Navy veteran, retired as commander.
Family: Divorced. Four children.
Jerald Ramshaw Jr.
Street address: 1303 Old Farm Road, C.
Phone number: 359-3586
Born in: Champaign
Occupation: Owner, Ramshaw Real Estate. Real estate developer.
Political experience: President of Campustown 2000 board.
Family: Married to Christie Ramshaw. Four children.
You can reach Mike Monson at (217) 351-5370 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.