The Wilmette Park District has stepped up the pace of its Wilmette Harbor operations research.
It now wants a consultant to review the harbor’s operation from an engineering standpoint, district Director Steve Wilson told Park Board commissioners at their Sept. 12 meeting.
Such an analysis could help the district to decide if it should get involved in operating the harbor, which is now maintained by the Wilmette Harbor Association.
Wilson said he has asked representatives of the consulting group JJR — which is currently working with the district’s Lakefront Commission on a lakefront master plan — if they would be interested in analyzing the harbor’s engineering infrastructure. JJR representatives haven’t yet responded, he said last week.
Park District officials have eyed the harbor, and the district’s potential future as one of its maintainers, since harbor associations first contacted them in September 2010.
The private group has managed Wilmette Harbor and its roughly 300 boat slips for 75 years on behalf of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which owns it.
Its current 50-year lease ends in 2012. However, harbor and MWRD officials learned last year that state law now requires the MWRD to put such leases out for public bid unless the association can work out a management agreement with yet another public body, such as the Park District.
Park District and association officials met several times last fall and in the first half of 2011; the district’s first priority was getting as much information as possible on the harbor itself, and the association’s operational costs, Wilson said.
“We came out of (the latest meeting this summer) with an understanding that we’d look at finding a consultant to review engineering options,” Wilson said Sept. 12.
The issue became a matter of public debate earlier this summer, when a group of Wilmette residents said they didn’t want the district getting involved with harbor operations.
At a July meeting, Park Board President James Brault promised district residents and harbor users that the board would make no final decision without seeking more public input.