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Article updated: 12/6/2012 4:42 PM

Vernon Hills Park District in homestretch of YMCA purchase

By Mick Zawislak

The agreement still hasn't been signed but the Vernon Hills Park District and Central Lake YMCA continue to deal with last-minute issues before the property at 700 Lakeview Parkway officially changes hands.

A due diligence period, which would have allowed the park district to walk away from the $2 million deal, was to have ended this past Monday but was extended for 10 days.

"There have been two or three lease and/or contractual items that we literally got this week," said Jeff Fougerousse, executive director of the park district. "It's going to take a little extra time to work this through."

For example, the YMCA is locked into a lease for its fitness equipment, while the park district owns some of the same items and likely would move them to the new location. The park district doesn't intend to inherit any of the YMCA's obligations, according to Fougerousse.

"It's a $96,000 issue," he said.

The YMCA also pays 54 cents per kilowatt hour for power, which is significantly more than the 46 cents per kilowatt hour the district pays through a consortium. Talks continue with the provider, he added.

Major issues, such as roof repairs, mechanical systems and handicapped accessibility have been addressed during negotiations. Plans are proceeding for an entryway redesign, and other details, such as changing the telephone number, are in the works.

The district intends to buy the 12-year-old building on 9 acres and operate it as a park district facility. And about three weeks ago, it reached an agreement with Vernon Hills to borrow just over $2 million at no interest to do so.

Payments would not be due for the first three years of the 13-year pact, as the two agencies worked in concert to continue operating the facility, which includes a day care center and indoor pool -- amenities the park district doesn't have. A closing is set for on or before Dec. 31.

The Lake County Family YMCA, which operates the Y in Vernon Hills and the Northern Lake YMCA in Waukegan, announced in late September it would close both as of Oct. 31 because of financial difficulties. The Waukegan branch was given a stay through the end of the year to allow for community fundraising.

While it has remained open, membership "units" at Vernon Hills have dropped by nearly 23 percent and day care enrollment has dipped by about 30 percent since Sept. 1.

Meanwhile, the park district has been interviewing employees with the hope of keeping as many as possible. Fougerousse said some positions have been settled while interviews continue for others, such as the aquatic staff.

"I'm confident within the next 10 days, we'll have everybody in place," he said.

While some of the day care workers will revert to part-time hours, Fougerousse said he hoped that status would change as the number of families using day care is replenished. Forty-four families now use the facility, with about 60 or so needed for a "comfortable and sustainable operation," he said.

The focus will be increasing membership and day care use.

"We're going to make this happen," Fougerousse said of the transition to a park district facility. "We know it will be challenging at times."

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