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posted: 7/26/2012 5:30 AM

Arlington Heights pares down parks referendum plans

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By David Conway
dconway@dailyherald.com

The Arlington Heights Park District is inching closer to finalizing a referendum package after commissioners this week were presented with more detailed plans for long-term capital improvements at several of the district's regional parks.

The park district staff presented the board of commissioners with six options to consider, playing with permutations of improvements at Camelot, Frontier, Heritage, Recreation and potentially Olympic parks. The options would request a bond issue ranging from about $31.8 million to $42.9 million on the November ballot.

The board largely stuck to the two options discussed at its last meeting, but are seriously considering four of the six presented. Board president Maryfran Leno supported "Solution No. 4" and Commissioner Robert Whisler supported "Solution No. 2," both plans centered around ideas they initially proposed.

Whisler expressed his interest in a walking path being added back to Frontier, but balked at the idea of improvements at Olympic.

Some discussion centered around the importance of gymnasiums versus programming rooms in the renovations made. Commissioner Robert Smith, who said he favored the two cheaper options, said he believes gyms would see more use than programming rooms.

Commissioner Myles Naughton said he was leaning toward the two higher-end options, but echoed Smith's stance on prioritizing gyms.

"Our value would be in the gymnasiums, from the programming side," Naughton said. "That's where we're going to get the most bang for our buck."

A handful of residents spoke up when the floor was opened to public comment, some in support of the bill and others decrying it as inappropriate spending. The small group may have encapsulated the divisive nature of another ballot issue. A similar proposal, seeking a $48 million bond issue, was defeated by a 634-vote margin in March.

"This is not an easy task for us," Leno said. "It's frustrating at times; it's tedious. It's trying to do what's best for everybody, and unfortunately not everybody will be happy, no matter what we do."

The board directed the staff to further finalize improvement options and determine the tax impact of each plan under consideration for the board's Aug. 14 meeting, their last before the Aug. 20 deadline to place a referendum question on the November ballot.

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