Forest Park Park District Assistant Director Larry Piekarz will recommend to the park board that it postpone the installation of security cameras at the park until the completion of renovations to the park’s administrative building next year.

The board decided to solicit bids for the cameras in April after an increase in vandalism, including six graffiti tags between April 15 and 17 which police suspect were gang related.

The bids, Piekarz said, came in higher than expected, ranging between $15,000 and $44,000. Since some of the cameras would have been installed on or adjacent to the administrative building, he thought it was best to hold off. Cameras were also planned for the pool area and the batting cages.

Board member Cathy McDermott agreed with the recommendation to postpone the installation of the cameras. “When I first saw the numbers, I was blown away,” she said.

Piekarz estimated that the park spends under $1,000 per year cleaning up after vandals, not including vandalism to soda machines, which is repaired by the suppliers. That relatively minor expense, he felt, did not justify immediate action by the district.

He recommended instead using the money for some more urgent projects, including repairing about 25 worn down lounge chairs by the pool and updating the park district’s phone system, both of which had been put aside to allow the district to install the cameras.

Board member Mike Espinoza did not object to the delay, but emphasized the urgent need for added security.

“The problem is not going to get any better, and we are in dire need. We don’t need to do it right now, but it needs to be done,” he said.

Piekarz assured that the cameras would be a budgeted line item in next year’s park district budget.

Board president Howard “Bud” Boy and Executive Director David Novak were absent from last Thursday’s board meeting, and the board will officially vote on the recommendations upon their return.

Espinoza suggested that the park look into the possibility of also installing strategically placed “panic buttons” throughout the park district’s 11-acre facility.

The Forest Park Public Library installed security cameras earlier this year with money provided through a grant received by the police department. Forest Park School District 91 plans to install security cameras at Field-Stevenson Elementary School and the Forest Park Middle School during the 2006-07 school year.

Police have said that they believe the recent spate of gang graffiti in town is partially due to a group of Proviso West students who, they say, have been coming to Forest Park to recruit new gang members.

Work on the park’s administrative building is expected to begin in September, and will include a new lobby entrance, an elevator tower, ADA-compliant restrooms and new offices and board meeting rooms. Plans also call for a safety handrail to be added in order to create an observation deck and meeting area overlooking the park’s aquatic center.