In a letter that was hand-delivered by police, two sex offenders living on the south side of town were given until Jan. 1 to find a new place to live.

The men, both convicted of abusing children, aren’t being ordered to relocate because of any recent transgressions. Village council members decided recently to install a small playground near their homes, and state law prohibits child predators from living within 500 feet of such a facility.

The municipality acknowledged the timing of the new park, being constructed at 1138 Lathrop, may appear to be linked to the recent arrival of one offender who’ll have to move. Fred Lenczycki is the first former clergyman in the U.S. labeled as “sexually violent,” and was accused of molesting more than 30 victims. He was released from a state facility on Sept. 22 and shortly thereafter signed a lease for an apartment at 1136 Lathrop.

But village officials said Lenczycki’s arrival has simply coincided with the realization of a long-time effort to create the park. The municipality bought the small parcel in 2001 and demolished the crumbling building that occupied the land. In November, with winter fast approaching and money set aside for such projects, village council members voted unanimously to install fencing and playground equipment.

John Doss, director of public works, said that work should be complete by the end of the month, so long as the weather cooperates.

Deputy Police Chief Tom Aftanas emphasized that neither Lenczycki nor Jerome Beals, who rents an apartment across the street from the new park, are being forced to leave the community. But they do have to distance themselves from the new park. Aftanas said he has been in touch with an agency that helps sex offenders find housing, and expects the men will be able to meet the deadline.

“I know the case manager is doing all he can to comply with that,” Aftanas said.

Beals, 49, was convicted of raping and assaulting a 12 year old when he was 31, according to the state’s online registry for sex offenders.

Potentially, said the deputy chief, the village could allow the two sex offenders to remain at their respective addresses beyond Jan. 1. The state law that requires the offenders to move away from the park offers no guidance on how much time should be given for them to do so. Also, said Aftanas, if the playground isn’t installed by Jan. 1, the village may be willing to grant an extension, but further clarification from state officials would be necessary. The local ordinance that created the park clearly designates the land as an area for children, and the presence of playground equipment may be irrelevant.

“If there’s no equipment in the park and just a couple of benches, I don’t know if it has the same effect,” Aftanas said.

Regardless of where Lenczycki and Beals relocate to, they must notify local authorities of their whereabouts or risk being sent back to prison.

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