County promises fun at water parks
By Lisa Donovan Sun-Times Media June 17, 2011 9:30PM
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (left) opens the county pools with a tour of the Cermak Aquatic Center in Lyons on Friday, June 17, 2011. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 23, 2012 2:44AM
The swimming pools run by the Cook County Forest Preserve District are opening this weekend with a bonus of free admission.
And also a vow — the facilities will be more closely supervised after last year’s allegations that one site became a playground for staff who boozed, had sex and helped themselves to cash from a money drawer.
Standing in front of the gleaming water, geysers and “lazy river” at the Cermak Family Aquatic Center in Lyons Township, the site of the alleged misconduct last summer, county board President Toni Preckwinkle and forest preserve district Supt. Arnold Randall on Friday announced some of the security changes.
They include 62 surveillance cameras at all three county pool complexes at a cost of $24,000, a new computer system for cashiers handling entrance fees and a new training regimen that includes a section on ethics.
Preckwinkle, who was elected board president in November, said the problems last summer were the “legacies of previous administrations. ... When alerted to these issues we took disciplinary action against people involved, and we took actions to prevent this from happening again.”
In March, she released county Inspector General Patrick Blanchard’s report, filed after his office investigated theft at the Lyons water park last summer. Cameras installed in a pool office captured more than theft, including employees “consuming alcoholic beverages and providing the alcohol to minors, engaging in sexual relations, improper physical contact between supervisor and subordinate, employees lounging and/or sleeping for hours at a time,” according to the report.
The problems at Cermak prompted Blanchard’s office to look at the district’s two other pools, Whelan on Chicago’s Northwest Side and Green Lake near Calumet City, which revealed that they were drowning in money problems — traced to time-card fraud and unjustified overtime to the tune of $166,716.62 during last season. By the time the 2010 season ended, the three aquatic centers were operating nearly $210,000 in the red.
Randall said Friday that more staff has been hired at the pools to keep costly overtime in check. He said it’s important to restore the public’s faith in the pool centers, especially when it comes to supervising young children there.
“As a father of several young children myself, I fully understand that parents and guardians must trust that the people who work here will serve the public’s interest,” Randall said.
The pool complexes are open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 4-12. Children 3 and younger get in free.