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posted: 6/7/2012 9:57 AM

Another referendum? Arlington Hts. Park District considers options

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  • The community center at Recreation Park in Arlington Heights could be converted to a bath house, or renovated to add three new programming rooms, under plans being considered by the Arlington Heights Park District's board. The board is deciding how to move forward with proposed renovations in the wake of a failed referendum in March.

       The community center at Recreation Park in Arlington Heights could be converted to a bath house, or renovated to add three new programming rooms, under plans being considered by the Arlington Heights Park District's board. The board is deciding how to move forward with proposed renovations in the wake of a failed referendum in March.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
By David Conway
dconway@dailyherald.com

More than two months removed from voters rejecting its request for a $48-million bond issue to renovate several parks, the Arlington Heights Park District board met this week to discuss their long-term improvement plans going forward.

While the possibility of consolidating some current community centers into a "mega-center" or leasing retail space to establish new centers was brought up, most of the discussion focused on modifying the renovation and expansion package that 53 percent of voters opposed in March.

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Six options were presented to commissioners, running the gamut from trying another referendum to putting renovation plans on hold entirely.

Option A would preserve the plan that was voted down in March. Option B is almost identical, but cuts costs to $42.5 million by paying for improvements at the Camelot Park community center with a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and existing funds.

Significant changes come with Option C, which adds four full-size gyms and comes the closest to the "mega center" concept.

The proposal includes adding four programming rooms and a field house at Olympic Park; the addition of a full-size gym and five program rooms at Frontier Park; three program rooms would be added at Camelot Park; and two program rooms would be added at Heritage Park. Option C also includes converting the community center at Recreation Park into a bath house, and ending programming there.

The cost of Option C would be $38.7 million

Option D is a sort of hybrid, renovating the Camelot and Heritage centers as in Option C while keeping the plans for Frontier and Recreation the same as they were in March. Costs would total $35.6 million.

Option E, with a price tag of $30.3 million, would also renovate Camelot and Heritage as outlined in Option C. Frontier would add one new gym and four new programming rooms, while the Recreation center would have the bath house reconstructed within the current structure and three programming rooms added.

Option F would scrap all the plans, returning to maintenance mode on community centers while the park district regroups.

Options C through F would eliminate many plans that were a part of the March referendum, including synthetic turf fields at Frontier, Sunset Meadows and Melas Park, path improvements at Lake Arlington and the construction of a dog park. The estimated cost of that work totals about $5.5 million.

"Options C and D are what we're most likely to pursue," said Steve Scholten, the district's executive director. "Options A and B are good options, but I think we need to investigate a plan that reduces the cost we ask from the community."

Four district residents who spoke at the meeting expressed their distaste with the idea of another referendum. One, Roland Ley, asked the board to consider holding off any vote until next year because of the economy and the possibility of larger races overshadowing a ballot question in November.

"My personal opinion is: I'm not too troubled by the expenditure of the funds per se," Ley said. "I think there has to be a better demonstration of what we're getting for our money and what the needs are."

The board outlined a timeline in which they would fine-tune their options for a meeting on July 10 and make a decision on how to move forward by Aug. 14. The filing deadline to get a referendum on the November ballot is Aug. 20.

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