To subscribe, click here

Sign up for our daily newsletter here

MAHOMET — Village President Sean Widener has spoken out about plans for tennis courts at parks once owned by the Mahomet-Seymour school district after a school board member expressed doubt that they would ever come to fruition.

“People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts,” Widener said in response to comments made by Meghan Hennesy before she walked out of a school board meeting last week. “What she said about (the tennis courts) is 100 percent false.

“It was not a verbal promise. It was an actual agreement that we put in place.”

While venting a long list of frustrations at the school board meeting, Hennesy indicated the district had only a verbal agreement from the village to build the courts in exchange for the district turning over both 13 Acres Park and Middletown Park for development.

Widener said high construction costs have delayed development of the project, which will benefit both the district and the community as a whole. He said a third round of bidding will be opened at the end of the month after two earlier rounds produced much higher figures than expected.

Widener said if the village does not come through on its part of the agreement by Dec. 1, 2024, the land reverts back to the school district.

Hennesy brought up the courts while detailing her frustration with what she said was lack of action in the areas of curriculum, bullying, diversity, inclusion and other issues. She said she was upset that those concerns had not been discussed while multiple meetings were conducted on “giving away” land to the village.

“We kept being told we were doing that because we were trading partial use of the tennis courts,” Hennesy said. “To date, there are no tennis courts. At the time when those of us board members wanted some source of security about giving land away, (they were told), ‘You’ve got to just trust them. The tennis courts are going up.’ The tennis courts are not going up.”

Widener said the village received a $725,000 state grant with the help of state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, and intends to use that money to build six tennis courts in Middletown Park. The courts will be open for use by the Mahomet-Seymour tennis team, which currently must go out of town for practices and matches, as well as the general public.

He said two previous rounds of bidding produced bids of more than $1 million, and he is hoping for lower amounts with the third round. He said if bids remain too high, the village will likely look for additional fundraising options, such as going through the Mahomet Community Foundation.

Middletown Park is on the northwest corner of Main and Division streets and was the site of the former Middletown Early Childhood Center. Thirteen Acres Park is southwest of Middletown Park. Widener said the recreation department is looking to finalize the park’s master plan in February.

Hennesy also said the school district has given “well over $10 million” to the village during the life of a tax-increment-financing district, resulting in the extension of South Mahomet Road near Middletown Prairie Elementary.

She said the road will only mean adding more houses and more students, resulting in additional overcrowding of schools.

A TIF district allows local governments to pay for public infrastructure and improvements by capturing the future anticipated increase in tax revenues that they will generate.

Widener said he doesn’t know where Hennesy got the $10 million figure and noted the true number is closer to $3 million. He said the improvements were required, and extending the TIF district relieved the district of those requirements.

“We took over responsibility of building the infrastructure,” Widener said. “At the end of the day, they got a pretty good deal. My point is, we’re two taxing bodies serving the same constituents. We have to work together.”

The first phase of South Mahomet Road is nearing completion. Widener said the village anticipates opening the new road in the summer, pending any issues with construction of a new railroad crossing. The road extends to Churchill Road near the school and will reduce congestion on U.S. 150 and enable easier access to the school for traffic coming from the south.

The second phase of the project will extend from Churchill Road east to Prairieview.

Our County Editor

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette's Our County section and former editor of the Rantoul Press. He can be reached at dhinton@news-gazette.com.

Trending Videos