Park Board commissioner wants to investigate possible installation of callboxes in city’s parks

Washington Park call box

An emergency callbox is shown on the south wall of the public restrooms in Washington Park. | David Adam

QUINCY — One member of the Quincy Park Board says he wants to “begin a discussion” about the installation of call boxes in each of the city’s parks.

Commissioner Mark Philpot told the seven-member board that the possibility of a study seeking public feedback on the issue was brought to the table during a Finance Committee meeting held before Wednesday night’s monthly meeting. 

He said the idea of the security measure was sparked by the news of a man who was attacked by two dogs in South Park on March 17

“The only reason that the event was reported because we were fortunate that a passerby happened on the victim,” Philpot said. “(The incident was) definitely a catalyst to have a discussion about what we’re doing to make sure that our patrons have a safe and secure environment.

“We want to start the discussion about how emergency call boxes would be instituted in the parks if that was something that we chose to do. We’re also seeking feedback from the public at large on whether or not they feel like this is something that will be a worthwhile purchase for the district.”

Philpot declared him the “front person” for the initiative and said anyone with ideas about where the callboxes would be placed should contact him through the Park District’s website.

“My concern is that we have adequate safety and security measures available for individuals who might be having medical incidents, things like that on our trails and our other parks,” Philpot said. 

Executive Director Rome Frericks said an emergency callbox is mounted on the south wall of the restroom in Washington Park. He said the callbox was installed when the Illinois Department of Public Health mandated it because of the splash pad in the park.

However, after the meeting, Philpot learned the callbox is not operational.

If public feedback dictates that the additional callboxes are needed, Philpot said he doesn’t want them to be paid for with taxpayer dollars.

“We (would need to) actively reach out to solicit for grants to pay for that and to make that happen,” he said. “We recognize that it’s probably good to be proactive as opposed to reactive, but to be more mindful of the fiscal responsibility, we have to (try for) grants as well. We’re actively seeking feedback on that.”

The Park Board took no action on Philpot’s suggestion.

Kent Voth spoke during the public input portion near the end of the 25-minute meeting. Voth operates Citizen Standpoint News, which “holds public officials accountable to the citizens through First Amendment audits,” according to a description on his YouTube page.

Voth used his allotment of three minutes to inform the commissioners of recent communications he had with Park Board President Jarid Jones. He said he contacted Jones on his cellphone (listed on the Park District website) on Monday night.

“Jared said he was eating dinner with family and asked if he could call me back,” Voth said. “I said sure. No problem.”

However, Voth said Jones never returned his call.

“I completely understand that things come up and you either forget or you just don’t have the time,” he said. “I’ve done it many times myself. I took no offense from the failure to return the call.”

Voth said he visited the Pour Haus coffee shop, 625 Maine, on Tuesday morning. He said he bought a cup of coffee and had a “short and friendly” conversation with an employee while hoping to speak with Jones. He said he eventually left his name and number with the employee and asked her to give it to Jones.

He said Jones called 20 minutes later.

“He flew into an absolute tirade, completely unhinged, and that I threatened his employee,” Voth said. “He wouldn’t even let me say a single complete sentence. I was dumbfounded by this over-the-top aggression. He told me to never return to his business, which is fine by me, but what really bothered me is he said I could never contact him again. He threatened me with law enforcement action if I did so.”

Voth said Jones tried to violate his First Amendment rights. He said his phone call was only to discuss a more accessible park system. 

“I understand that (Jones is) young, and he’s going to make some mistakes along the way,” Voth said. “But this is unacceptable from any elected official inside the United States. Through further investigation of Mr. Jones. I’ve come across some troubling details, which I will be exposing in a future story. 

“I ask this board as a whole to please be good stewards of the public’s money (and to) be on guard for frauds, swindlers, wastefulness and political backchanneling. We have a $20 million budget and a reckless adult baby at the helm of it. He’s a liability at the minimum.”

Asked for a comment after the meeting about Voth’s statement, Jones declined.

In other action, commissioners:

  • Learned from Matt Higley, director of parks, is pleased with the two new baseball/softball fields in Wavering Park. “We need grass to grow,” he said. “It’s going to take a little time. We’re still filling in holes as they come in, but other than that, they look really good.” Commissioner John Frankenhoff asked about holes and ruts in the outfield on the south field, and Higley replied, “It’s a work in progress. It’s going to be sometime next year before they look great.” He said dirt will be added to the outfield and then rolled before this weekend.
  • Learned from Mike Bruns, director of program services, that youth soccer, baseball and softball leagues started this week, and the Batting Cage now is operational.
  • Learned from David Morgan, director of golf, that installation of a new irrigation system should begin “by the middle of the month.”
  • Approved an updated operations and procedures manual, which describes and provides a reference for how the Quincy Park District operates. Paul Dennis Soccer Complex was added to the list of parks and the parks department chain of command was updated.
  • Approved a bid of $10,500 from Rees Construction for a sidewalk replacement in Wavering Park. 

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