The following Letter to the Editor expresses the opinions of the author. Patch merely serves as a platform for individuals to express their views.
As you may have heard, the Park District is in the midst of a discussion to replace the 58-year-old pools at Centennial Park.
It has been my honor to serve the citizens of Park Ridge on the Park District Board of Commissioners since 2009. In my role this year as Board President, I am extremely excited to help direct the future of the Park District with a proposed plan to modernize the aquatics facility at Centennial...but I need your help at this critical juncture.
Over the past year, the Park District staff, in conjunction with the Board and independent aquatics engineers, has been developing a plan to replace the two aging pools at Centennial with two new, modern pools that have such common amenities as zero depth entry, slides, modest recreational water features and competitive lap areas.
Detailed information on the plan can be found on the Park District's web site.
I want to stress that, while we are planning to modernize the facility at Centennial with amenities that are comparable to many other nearby communities, this project is not on the scale of a "water park" such as the Mystic Waters facility in Des Plaines.
The overall cost of the proposed modernization project is $7.1 Million. This includes not only the cost to replace the pools, but also to properly address potential flooding issues in the area and to increase the size of the current parking lot. This project will be funded by the Board's non-referendum bonding authority. In other words, the Board has the statutory authority to issue bonds for this amount, without increasing the tax burden on the taxpayers of Park Ridge (i.e., no new taxes for this project).
Over the past few weeks, a relatively small but vocal group of citizens have voiced their strong objection to this project, on a number of grounds.
Some who live in the area don't want a new facility which, in their opinion, could bring more noise and more people to the park. Others want the Board to simply replace the current pools with exact replicas of the existing pools (at an approximate cost of $4 million).
Still others question whether we should even have outdoor pools in Park Ridge given the limited window of time (typically 90-100 days) to operate them during the summer months and thereby accusing the Board of fiscal mismanagement by ever considering an expenditure on outdoor aquatics.
In my mind, the sole question for the taxpayers of Park Ridge is quite simple...do we or don't we want outdoor pools in our city. If we don't want them then the board should be planning for the demolition of the Centennial pools within the next year, given the significant mechanical and physical problems the current 58-year-old pools face.
However, if the citizens feel that outdoor pools are an important fixture in our City, then we need to move forward on plans to bring a modern aquatics facility to Centennial Park.
Simply put, the Board is at a crossroads and I need you to let your voice be heard on this very important issue...one that will impact the citizens of Park Ridge for generations to come. At my direction, the Board will be holding two public hearings on the future of the Centennial Pools...on Thursday December 6th and again on Thursday the 13th at 7:30pm in the Park Ridge Park District Senior Center at 100 S. Western. I cannot stress enough how important it is that we have as many people as possible at these hearings...the future of pools in Park Ridge is in your hands. So, please plan on attending one or both of the public hearings and please, pass this message on to as many people as you can.
Note: you can also take the survey to give your input.
Rick Biagi is president of the Park Ridge Park District board.