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updated: 8/17/2012 2:16 PM

West Chicago Park District puts rec center on ballot

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  • West Chicago Park District will ask voters permission on Nov. 6 to raise taxes to build a $15 million community recreation center in Reed-Keppler Park.

    West Chicago Park District will ask voters permission on Nov. 6 to raise taxes to build a $15 million community recreation center in Reed-Keppler Park.
    Courtesy of the West Chicago Park District


West Chicago Park District will ask residents in November for permission to borrow $15 million to build a community recreation center.

Park officials voted this week to put the referendum question on the Nov. 6 ballot in hopes of constructing a 65,000-square-foot site in Reed-Keppler Park. The proposed facility would house a walking/jogging track, an area for seniors, multipurpose gymnasiums, a fitness area, dance studios, a soccer/lacrosse area, an indoor playground and other core recreation and fitness amenities.

If voters support the project, property taxes for the owner of a $250,000 house would increase about $65 a year, officials said.

This will be the second time the park district has asked residents to approve plans for a recreation center. This spring, roughly 53 percent of voters rejected plans for a $19.5 million, 79,000-square-foot rec center at the corner of Washington and Fremont streets, near a proposed downtown development.

Now the district has pared down the proposal and officials say feedback has been more positive.

"One of the interesting things was that we had some people come from a section of the community who voted against the referendum the first time and they made a big point to us to say we really like the change in location," Executive Director Gary Major said. "They said it makes a lot more sense because it's safer being away from the downtown trains and it centers all of our community recreation programs. So it was nice to see someone who publicly opposed it recognize the value of the changes."

Reed-Keppler, an 89-acre park, already is home to athletic fields, a skate park, Turtle Splash Water Park, Wiggly Field Dog Park, playgrounds, trails, picnic pavilions and other amenities. And because infrastructure such as electrical hookups are already in place, the site would allow the recreation center to be built at a lower cost.

Major said other residents expressed concern that West Chicago has the highest child obesity rate in DuPage County, according to county health department statistics, and told park officials they feel it's important to address the health needs of the community.

But while the positive feedback is good, park officials still were set on putting the question on the ballot, Major said. Especially since now is a good time to take advantage of lower construction costs that will become more expensive in the future.

"The board felt there was some residual momentum from the last election and we were anxious to take advantage of that," Major said. "I think (the good feedback) just solidified their feelings. It did not make up their minds. But people see we listened and responded in a positive way."

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