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updated: 10/26/2011 8:48 AM

West Chicago query: $85 a year for park improvements?

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The West Chicago Park District is putting out feelers to find out whether residents want -- and are willing to pay -- for new and upgraded facilities.

The park district recently sent an opinion survey to approximately 5,000 residents asking how they would vote on a plan to borrow $19.8 million for several projects, including:

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• A community recreation center that would likely be part of a downtown redevelopment plan.

The rec center would have two or three gyms, a fitness center, climbing wall, dance studio, indoor track and activity rooms for seniors, people with disabilities and birthday parties.

• As many as five new athletic fields at Kress Creek Farms covered with artificial turf for year-round use by more sports.

• New amenities at several parks, including an "adventure trail" at Easton Park, a fishing dock at Cornerstone Lakes Park, lights for some ball fields at Reed-Keppler Park, and more trails and additional parking at Kress Creek Farms.

"Our job here is to provide options and alternatives," said Gary Major, executive director of parks and recreation. "You (residents) need to tell us if you want that or not."

The park district is still reviewing the poll results and also plans a phone survey. No decision has been made on whether to put the question on the ballot in either March or November 2012, he said.

"By the first or second week of December, we'll have a pretty good idea what our next steps may or may not be," Major said.

A $19.8 million bond issue would cost the owner of a $250,000 home -- the median price in West Chicago -- an additional $85 in property taxes annually for 25 years, Major said.

The mailed survey, however, asks if residents would be willing to pay an additional $2.83 a month in taxes per $100,000 of a home's value -- an amount that likewise would come out to $85 for the owner of a $250,000 home.

Major said the park district was going for the "simplest, most transparent" way to explain the tax impact.

But longtime resident and retiree Estus Webb called it underhanded.

When people go to vote, they'll remember the $2.83 a month and might not read the ballot question carefully, Webb said.

"It upsets me a great deal, it really does," Webb said. "Not the bond issue -- I think it's probably a good idea -- but the way it was presented rubbed me the wrong way."

The projects on the list are all amenities West Chicago residents have said they'd like to have, and that neighboring park districts provide for their communities. But the list is not finalized, and will depend on community support, the budget and the city's plans for a downtown campus.

"We certainly understand the economic challenges right now," Major said.

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