Not So Fast On Pool Plans, Residents Say
Neighbors question the Park Ridge Park District's plans for demolishing and replacing most of the Centennial Pool complex. They had learned of the $7.1 million price tag only in the past week or so.
UPDATE: The Park Ridge Park District has provided more exact figures on the costs to just replace the two pools (discussed lower in this story). It would be $3.8 to $4.2 million, according to the park district's consultant.
Several neighbors of Centennial Park came to the Park Ridge Park District board meeting Thursday, Nov. 15, to express their dismay with the speed with which the district planned to proceed with a $7.1 million project to replace the aging pools at the park.
Residents who spoke at the meeting – none of them in favor of the plan – also took issue with park officials’ characterization of the project, saying the inclusion of two water slides and other features moves it from the “pool” to the “water park” category.
Park District Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle said the park district has known for some time that the two metal-skinned pools, at 58 years old, have long outlasted their expected useful life, and now water is leaking through stress fractures and “pinholes” caused by corrosion.
“The biggest reason is that these pools are failing,” she said.
She noted that the park district started laying the groundwork for this project with a mail-in survey that was sent to a portion of households in the district--a statistically significant sample-- more than a year ago.
Entire district told of plan, very briefly, in mid-August
However, no notice was made to the entire district until mid-August, when the the fall program guide contained one paragraph of general information about the Centennial pool replacement, without any estimate of the price, on page four.
Board learned price tag Oct. 25; public saw it Nov. 8, board was supposed to vote on it Nov. 15
In June, the district asked its pool consultant to come up with a conceptual plan. However, the park board only saw the completed plan and its $7.1 million price tag at its Oct. 25 meeting.
About 40 residents learned of the plan, and price tag, at an informational meeting Nov. 8. It intended to vote on the plan one week later, on Nov. 15. The district did not put information about the pool plan on its website until Nov. 13.
Even before the Nov. 15 meeting, however, the park board announced it would postpone the vote until its next regular meeting, Dec. 6.
Mountcastle said the issue was on agendas for public meetings, was sent to people who have signed up for district emails and was mailed to 1,400 households who live near the park.
Residents said that information came last week, too late in the game for them to have any real input, and did not include a drawing of what the redesigned pool complex would look like.
No longer two rectangular pools
Instead of having two rectangular pools, the complex would have a pool with a gradual sloped entry, two slides on one 23-foot tower and other water features. A second pool would have six or eight 25-yard lap lanes, depending on what the budget can accommodate. The existing kiddie pool would remain the same.
“This is what a current community pool looks like now. This is not a water park,” Mountcastle said.
Park board vice president Mary Wynn Ryan agreed.
"I am a lifelong resident of Park Ridge and I live in this neck of the woods,” she said. “I’m comfortable with what we have come up with here. This is a replacement project and an upgrade. It’s like Centennial 2.0.”
Does not require approval from voters
Because the park district can pay for the project with non-referendum bonds and money in the bank, it does not have to seek voter approval to move forward.
$5.3 million just to replace pools in current footprints (Update: The Park District has provided information saying the cost would be $3.8 to $4.2 million; Patch originally calculated $5.3 million based on info we had at post time)
Park board president Rick Biagi said the district had a received a rough estimate of $4 million to simply replace the existing pools, but that would not include site work to improve drainage or improvements and expansion of the parking lot, which the district might have to do anyway and which would cost about $1.3 million.
Resident Phil Oenning said that’s what the park district should do, noting that two referendums that would have replaced the pools with a water park in the 1990s failed.
“This is the third run at this,” he said. “Why can’t you just replace those pools the way they are and be done with this? It will be an eyesore.”
On the contrary, park board member Stephen Vile said, it will be an improvement.
“I think everybody realizes that the pools have outlived their usefulness,” he said. “Certainly we could just reconstruct what we have, or we could do better. The cost of replacing the pool itself is $4 million. But $1.3 million is water retention and water flow through the park, redoing the parking lot- that takes your price from $4 million to $5.3. In the process, you’re getting something that’s bringing us into a more modern age of entertaining people.”
Watch for new survey today
Mountcastle said that the district would have a new survey about the project on its website as of Nov. 16, and would send a flyer with the concept plan for the project to nearby homes in advance of the Dec. 6 meeting.
The district is also planning an April referendum to buy the 11.4 acre former Youth Campus and develop it as a park. It would cost $6.4 million to buy the land, plus the cost of demolishing some buildings on the property and building park features.
The district includes Park Ridge and the southwest portion of Niles.
To comment on the proposal for the pool, residents can:
- Call (847) 692-3482
- Email email@example.com