The Park Ridge Park District was planning to vote Thursday to approve spending $7.1 million on a plan to replace the two main pools at the Centennial Pool complex.
Because the hefty price tag had only been announced last Thursday, Nov. 8, and information about the pool plan was not posted on the park district's website until yesterday evening (Nov. 13), the district has moved that vote to Dec. 6, said Gayle Mountcastle, the district's executive director.
Residents of the district, who live in Park Ridge and the southwest part of Niles, are welcome to learn more about the plan and express opinions at tomorrow's meeting, 7:30 p.m. at Maine Leisure Center, 2701 Sibley Street, Park Ridge, she said.
"I'm happy we're taking more time to do this," said Rick Biagi, president of the park district board. "We've got to consider some deadlines (to get the new pools planned and constructed in time for a 2014 summer season). But we don't want to make rash decisions and spend $7 million on something we haven't properly thought through."
In planning stages for a year, but many residents didn't know
The park district has been working on the Centennial Pool plan for more than a year--including such moves as hiring a pool consultant to assess the condition of the pool-- but district residents first heard about it only when the fall program guide arrived in homes in August. In a column on page 4, Biagi wrote one paragraph saying that the pools, at nearly 60 years old, have outlived their expected 40-year lifespan, and that the board would be looking at replacing them with an outdoor aquatic complex. The park district did not have cost projections then, so none were given.
Some, but not all, residents learned of plans before August
A portion of residents, but not all residents, received word of the improvements at Centennial in other ways. About 3,500 households, which makes up a third of households in the district, received a Community-Wide Survey in Fall 2011 asking about their preferences and priorities for the park district, Mountcastle said. They represented a statistically valid sample for surveying purposes; about 500 surveys on paper were also placed at park district facilities for interested patrons, she said.
Another portion of the resident population, those who have signed up to receive email notices from the park district, received an email informing them the Nov. 8 informational meeting on the Centennial proposal would be held.
Yet another portion of the resident population participated in focus groups; some of these included representatives from the city and the Park Ridge Library, Mountcastle said.
Patch also reported in late August that the district would be holding informational meetings to ask residents their opinions on the conceptual plans for the new Centennial pool complex.
Pool designed for different age groups and swimming abilities
Mountcastle said the new aquatic complex, would meet the needs of different age groups and interests.
Updating the complex in such a way as to maintain the two existing holes in the ground would not be in keeping with today's standards for what communities expect in a pool, she said.
"That wouldn't be responsible," she said. "If you do two rectangular pools, you limit the age and interest of people you can serve."
Biagi said that in the past week, some district residents he talked to have questioned whether the district should even go ahead with the Centennial pool replacement.
"That surprised me because we have two failing pools that will be lucky to make it through next season," he said. "If they fail, we'll only have Hinckley (Pool)."
Hinckley is considerably smaller, could not accommodate the number of bathers who typically come to Park Ridge pools, and is also quite old and could fail before long, he noted.
"I've viewed this (Centennial pool proposal) as something we have to do to bring the pool up to modern standards," he said. "We'd have a mutiny in Park Ridge if we let those pools fail."
To comment on the proposal for the pool, residents can attend the Nov. 15 meeting or:
- Call (847) 692-3482
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org