“Realistic”

I heard a word I liked at the Park District’s unveiling of a proposed pool facility, “realistic.” That word came out of the mouth of an architect. That was a shocker and I can only hope that everyone who talked tonight understood the importance of telling the truth, not hiding anything, and making sure that people in the community can trust their actions.

I rushed to the meeting after work so I did not have time to grab a notebook. The following is off memory, so please take it with that in mind.

I heard some other things I liked; the Park District interviewed people who actually use the pool. They identified people who came to the pool and asked them for their opinions. There are pictures up in the hallway so those using the pool can see what is in the plans. There were people in the audience with some obviously wet pool hair who had comments. Others reminded the Park District Board that there are many senior citizens on fixed incomes who would find increases in property taxes difficult. I asked if the Park District had any money set aside and reminded them that there are people with low incomes in this community. Executive Director Cindy Capek described how they are “sensitive” to the needs of the community, they will try to keep the admissions costs down, and they work with families who do not have as much money so that they can still use the pool. They do not want to price anyone out and mentioned how other water parks elsewhere can be very expensive for families.

The pool plan is not inexpensive with a price tag that may run about $15 million. There is a desire to bond it but pay back the bonds within ten years, to get it over with quickly. In order for that to happen, they need a referendum because the Park District is not Home Rule like the city. Someone from the audience suggested that they please try to take donations. There might be a foundation set up in the future for that purpose. The proposed plan has a variety of facilities, a regular pool, a kiddie pool, one for diving, water slide, etc. Those actually sound like safe ideas, to separate the different activities into self-contained areas. Pools become dangerous when they are people swimming laps, diving, playing, and using a water slide all in one large space. Under the proposed plan, those activities would be separate.

So many people use the pool; the Park District should ask for their TIF money back to help defray costs. There are probably more people at the pool on one hot day than have ever gone to the skating rink, totaling every day since it opened.

I did notice one thing. I did not see anyone at the meeting who appeared to be of any under-represented groups (a.k.a. minorities). I saw kids who appeared to belong to minority groups there using the pool but none of their parents appeared to be in attendance. It is just something I noticed, which was probably just out of bad luck, with so many people working so many hours.

6 thoughts on ““Realistic””

  1. According to my tax bill, the Park District gets the same amount of property tax as the city (.06). This means TIF captures $300,000 annually that would normally go to the Park District. If that is enough to pay for the pool plans, it constitutes yet another potential reason to dissolve the TIFs. Let’s talk.

  2. E-mail sent today:

    DeKalb Park District,

    Thank you very much for your presentation on the pool last night. Thank you also for asking the people who actually use the pool for feedback. Please keep the costs for a new facility reasonable and please do seek private donations. No matter what the interest rates are, I think it is never too early to start asking for donations, and even small donations do add up quickly.

    It sounds as though the Park District learned from the mistakes involved with the recent schools referendum. Please keep information about a pool facility as open as possible to create a strong level of trust with the voters, before and after a referendum. Make sure that any quotes for what could be raised in taxes would be for all ten years of a proposed bond, unlike the school referendum that estimated the cost for just the first year. I would also suggest that voters be told how much money could be saved by having a ten-year bond over what repayment could cost for say a twenty-year bond. The faster one pays off debt, the less that debt costs but people need to be told what the savings might be with that.

    I strongly suggest that the Park District asks the City of DeKalb for TIF money, for as much funds as possible to help support the cost of a new facility. The pool facility has very high use, and it sounds like the Park District is trying to be efficient with its funds.

    I was very worried that a future new facility would chase away the low-income families. Thank you for acknowledging that yes, there are low-income families in this community and thank you for working with them so they can afford to bring their children. Having summer recreation is critically necessary for the health of children as well as to give them something very positive to do. Reducing barriers for families to participate in recreation is really like investing in children.

    Thanks, and good luck,

    Kay Shelton

  3. Sorry but I have to ask.

    Is the 15m needed to upgrade Hopkins Park or is it needed to provide a new swimming pool?

    If the goal is to provide a new pool with something for the kids to do and all to use then was any discussion given to selling the present site on Sycamore Road and using the profits to build on a new, cheaper, location?

    Why not sell one of the most expensive pieces of property in the City and build someplace else or is the only option a tax increase?

  4. Hey Pevo,

    Relying on my memory, in order to do major repairs on the existing pool, it would be $5 million, and that would not include replacing pipes. The plan is for a new pool elsewhere in Hopkins Park, sort of where the tennis courts are now to take advantage of the already existing parking lot that is on the other side. That would also allow them to leave the existing pool operational during the construction of the pool. The tennis courts, though, would be out of service for a while and would be moved later. There would be a little bit of a reconfiguration of the entrance by the traffic light but they could take advantage of an already existing parking lot, expand it a bit closer to the band shell, and add lights so people could see better after the band concerts while they are at ig. It is also safer if people used the parking lot at the traffic light. I think anyone trying to make a left turn out on to Sycamore Road is half crazy. Someone got clobbered two weeks ago trying to do just that out of the Park District’s parking lot.

    I am sure I do not have to remind you that the Park District and the city’s property would be under two different taxing districts. ;-) That said, it might be more expensive to build a new pool in a completely different location. The traffic light is already there.

    I do not know if a private-public joint venture might work or not. I do not know enough about park districts. Then again, if something like that became possible, that might jack up the admission price and this is something that families should be able to afford. Kids really need something constructive to do during the summer, and something healthy.

    Other options would be to recapture TIF money back into the Park District and get donations. They talked about donations already.

  5. It is part of the Park District’s mission to provide affordable activities for residents, so I’d expect them to do everything in their power to keep it that way.

    Vacating and selling some of the Park District property along Sycamore Road is an interesting fundraising idea. They are going to tear down Meinecke so now would be a good time to figure out what else might be done in the vicinity of the pool property, especially if it’s ultimately to be abandoned.

  6. Why not build a new pool in Katz Park. It will be very close to the new Taj Mahal, and I’m sure the brilliant traffic engineering of the city will make it very easily accessible even with the extra school traffic. The high school might even be able to use it once in a while, since it will not have a pool of it’s own. Or will it? I guess the secret plans and specs will become apparent when it is completed.

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