ELMHURST – Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 has declined to have a public meeting with the city of Elmhurst following Mayor Steve Morley's letter to school board President Shannon Ebner.
"My offer to meet in public was rejected, which disappoints me," Morley said at the Elmhurst City Council meeting Oct. 16.
He said he would write another letter to Ebner and include an offer to bring in a mutually agreed-upon mediator, if there were any concerns about how the meeting would be run.
"This is Elmhurst residents, and it's their land," Morley said at the meeting after discussing the city's response to heavy rainfall the weekend of Oct. 14 and 15. "So this is a unique situation where I think we're both on the same side, and I'll reiterate that I think the best way to get this done – because it has taken a while – is to have a meeting in public to discuss the disposition of those projects. ... Honestly I couldn't tell you, if you asked me what the status is of the York project or the Jackson project, I could not tell you what the school district would require for us to get those done."
Morley said the last public meeting between the city and school district, which involved discussions about stormwater projects, was in 2015.
Shannon Ebner said in a phone interview Oct. 18 that "there may be a better way," especially in light of progress she said was made at the city-parks-school committee meeting Sept. 14.
"I was really excited from that meeting. We discussed possible projects that benefit all entities, like a win-win-win. So when I read his letter, I was coming off of the first meeting of the city-parks-school committee in a while...and we already had another meeting planned," Ebner said.
She said there is a lot of work that "goes on behind the scenes," noting City Manager Jim Grabowski and Superintendent David Moyer "work very closely together."
"I feel that we've gotten the most work done at committee meetings that aren't in public. But that's just my opinion. Steve Morley could have a different opinion, and I'm willing to talk through that," Ebner said.
She said the public discussion around the Madison project "took a long time," and she doesn't think talking about it publicly made it progress more quickly.
Moyer said after the Oct. 10 Board of Education meeting that there was "frustration" for both city and school district administrators at the last city-school meeting, and he doesn't think a public meeting with the city is as helpful as Morley says it is.
Ebner added having a joint communication and public meeting telling the public that the city, school and Elmhurst Park District administrations are working together, sharing what results were achieved and announcing a solution would be "a great thing to do."
"[The public] wants results," Ebner said. "I don't think they care that much about hearing the fine details of the project or people throwing around ideas. I think they want results."
She said city, Park District and school district staff are working together every day on projects such as maintenance and before- and after-school daycare at the elementary schools that is run by the Park District, and she wants to "focus on the positives."
"Let's show the city results," Ebner said.