New taxpayer built park in Stickney unavailable to the public - Fox 2 News Headlines

New taxpayer built park in Stickney unavailable to the public

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

With summer finally here, perhaps you'd like to take your family out to the park. Well, here's a story about a beautiful new park that you paid for, but you'll never be able to use.

It's courtesy of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago - the $1.2 billion agency that treats waste water in Cook County.

It was a big turnout last Friday as Water Reclamation District commissioners cut the ribbon on a beautiful brand new park celebrating the district's 125th anniversary.

Built over the past two months at a cost of over $226,000 taxpayer dollars, the park features perennials and trees, a stately brick wall, paved paths and an irrigation system to keep it all green.

The problem is the public’s not allowed to use the park, because it is located inside the Stickney water treatment plant - a high-security facility behind a tall fence topped with razor wire and guarded by Water Reclamation District police.

"Yes I do [live in Stickney]," said resident Jerry DiMaggio. “I had no idea [about the park].”

Stickney residents just down the street from the water treatment plant were stunned when they discovered the cost.

"That’s not right. It’s wrong. They should let anybody access it. If it's our taxpaying dollars, we should access it,” said one woman.

The ‘Kathleen Therese Meany Presidential Garden’ is named in honor of the district's board president who told employees it's a lot cheaper than the last time the district celebrated an anniversary - when it spent more than $3 million on the Centennial Fountain and Water Cannon alongside the Chicago river.

"It was extravagant. But it was our 100th anniversary. So the 125th, I said why don't we turn inward and instead of a gift for the city, why don't we have a gift for our employees? Something that they can enjoy," said Meany.

About 700 people work at the Stickney water treatment plant, which means the garden cost about $324 per employee.

A district spokesperson wrote in a statement, "the district felt it was important to mark the 125th year milestone... Yet remain conscious of our current economic environment."

"I don't think they should use taxpayers’ money on something that people can't enjoy. You need a badge to get in," asked DiMaggio. "So…what good is it for the taxpayers or the people if they can't even go visit it?"

In addition, you can't have a celebration in the park without food, right? So, the district catered a hot dog lunch for the dedication, which you paid for as well - $2,960.

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