Latest pool push has Lake Park officials 'very optimistic'
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Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the amount of money Lake Park High School has spent on architecture of a potential aquatic facility. The school has paid an architect $9,000 for designs and has committed to spend $600,000 of its own funds if voters approve money for the construction and operation of an indoor aquatic center.
Lake Park High School swimming and diving coach Dan Witteveen has waited 17 years for the Roselle school to get an indoor pool.
Attempts to win taxpayer support for such a project have failed over and over during that time. But as the March 18 primary election approaches, Witteveen and other school officials say they're "very optimistic" the wait soon could be over.
The school will ask voters two referendum questions to support construction and operation of an $8.5 million aquatic facility at Lake Park's east campus in Roselle.
If voters approve a proposal to borrow $8.5 million to fund pool construction and a tax rate increase to provide an additional $390,000 a year for operation, Lake Park Superintendent Lynne Panega says the 23,500-square-foot facility with an eight-lane competition pool and diving well could open by August 2015.
Voters rejected similar ballot questions last April that sought $8 million for construction and $380,000 for operations. This time around, Lake Park officials say there are three main differences.
First, the school has worked with the Bloomingdale, Itasca, Medinah and Roselle park districts to set a schedule for when the aquatic facility will be used by students and when it will be available for adult lap swim or park district programs.
"This year, you're going to see a much stronger community focus," Panega said.
Second, Lake Park has redesigned plans for the aquatic center, expanding it to offer family changing rooms, offices for park district use, better spectator and swimmer access, and more amenities at a smaller "warming pool" that can be used for athletic rehabilitation and youth swimming lessons.
"It has evolved into so much more than just a pool," Lake Park spokeswoman Sherri Anderson said. "It represents the only (indoor) public aquatic facility in the area. It serves residents and students."
Third, officials say the school is making sure voters are better informed this year, sending mailers explaining the vision for the aquatic facility, the estimated cost for taxpayers and the complex wording of the ballot questions themselves.
"The school is much more involved this time," said Lisa Gregor of Itasca, who is president of People for a Pool, a citizens' group in its third year of advocating for a pool at Lake Park. "The school is being so proactive about getting information to the community and making sure everyone knows about this."
After a push for pool funding failed last spring, Panega said Lake Park officials rethought the school's needs.
The boys and girls swimming and diving teams, which Witteveen said have 105 total members, still need a place to practice and host meets. The school is renting space from Streamwood High School for swimming and Hoffman Estates High School for diving, but both are about a 25-minute drive from Roselle.
"It's a lot of wasted time on the bus," said Sean Gregor, a senior on the Lancers swim team.
And while the team's previous home pool at College of DuPage is set to reopen soon, Panega said practice times begin at 2:30 p.m. — while school is still in session — and the facility is not deep enough for diving.
With a pool of its own, Lake Park could expand opportunities for other activities beyond swimming and diving.
"We've seen a lot of excitement from our fishing club because they can use it for casting practice," Panega said. "And there would be the opportunity for kayaking and possibly water polo."
Plus, Lake Park officials say an indoor pool would be an educational tool to teach water safety and swimming in physical education classes.
"It's life-safety skills that this facility is going to teach everyone," Witteveen said.
The school also could offer water-based electives such as water polo, water aerobics or training on how to conduct CPR or use an automatic external defibrillator.
"It'd be a great thing for PE classes," said Brian Bayer, a junior on the Lancers swim team. "They could hold lifeguard certification classes during school. That'd be great for students."
The school hired an architect and a construction manager to help redefine aquatic center plans once its needs were established. Jeff O'Connell, assistant superintendent for business services, said Lake Park already has committed to put $600,000 of its own funds toward the aquatic center project if voters approve funding for construction and operation of the facility. So far, the school has spent $9,000 on architectural designs.
ARCON, a Lombard-based architecture firm, helped redesign aquatic facility plans, expanding the planned addition from 18,300 square feet to a proposed 23,500-square-foot design. New areas include family changing rooms, park district office space, two new lobby areas and a hallway running the length of the facility.
Still included are an eight-lane 25-yard competition pool with a deep end suitable for diving and seating for 330 fans. A smaller pool, which will be filled with warmer water, will have a shallow area for toddler swimming lessons and deeper sections for rehabilitation of injuries.
"Any athlete at Lake Park is at a disadvantage without a pool because they can't be conditioned in water," said Chris Roll, Lake Park football coach.
People for a Pool members say the community also is at a disadvantage without a public pool for winter use.
"Everyone has a park district outdoor summer pool, but there are no indoor opportunities, no year-round opportunities," Gregor said.
Plans call for lap swim from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. seven days a week and again from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Bloomingdale, Itasca, Medinah and Roselle park districts will have use of the facility from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, while in between, it will be used by Lake Park students, swimming and diving team members and athletes. On Saturdays and Sundays, the pool will be open for park district use from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
"We consider that a giveback to the community," Panega said.
The school already has hired a construction manager, Nicholas & Associates of Mount Prospect, which Panega said will help speed the construction process so the pool can be ready to go by August 2015, if voters want it.
With the election coming up March 18, People for a Pool is urging voters to "vote yes twice" and approve both aquatic facility-related questions. The first asks permission for the school to borrow $8.5 million to build the facility. The second has wording mentioning the property tax extension limitation and the consumer price index, but Lake Park officials say it's asking for a tax rate increase to bring in an additional $390,000 a year for pool maintenance, operation and staffing.
The tax rate increase is estimated to cost the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $13.44 a year, or $20.16 for the owner of a $300,000 home, O'Connell said. The cost of borrowing to build the pool is estimated to raise property taxes $11.60 for the owner of a $200,000 home and $17.40 for the owner of a $300,000 home.
Both questions must be approved for the pool to be built. That means taxes could increase a total of $25.04 a year for the owner of a $200,000 home and $37.56 a year for the owner of a $300,000 home.
The school would pay off the $8.5 million construction loan in 10 years.
A referendum calculator is available on the school's website. O'Connell said this is a new feature added with this most recent push for a pool.
Lake Park officials will be making presentations at board meetings of all four park districts set to benefit from creation of the pool. And on Feb. 18 — the last day to register to vote in order to be eligible for the March 18 election — the school will host a community open house at 7 p.m. at the east campus, 600 S. Medinah Road in Roselle, for residents to ask questions and learn more about the proposal.
Volunteers from the League of Women Voters will be on hand offering voter registration, as they have during recent school days. Anderson said many Lake Park students are registering to vote, some of them taking advantage of the new state law that lets 17-year-olds participate in primary elections if they will be 18 by the time the November general election rolls around.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm among the students to be able to participate," Anderson said.
Neither Lake Park officials nor People for a Pool leaders say they have heard of any organized opposition to the addition of an aquatic center. Panega said the vote last spring was as close as it has ever been, failing by roughly 600 votes out of more than 8,000 ballots cast.
"It's going to be a great facility if we can get it built," Witteveen said. "It's something the community needs desperately."
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