A Kane County Board committee signed off on $200,000 worth of engineering for the proposed cross country facility at the old Settler's Hill landfill Wednesday while hoping they won't be double-crossed by a financial feasibility study.
If the study shows the track can't break even or make money, then the $200,000 for engineering will be spent on a scrapped project. Committee members weighed that risk against a desire to see the first redevelopment project of the former landfill get underway as soon as possible.
Board member Mike Donahue said not allowing the engineering work to run concurrently with the feasibility study risks delaying the ultimate construction by as much as six months. Donahue represents Geneva, a community that has long wanted the land to become something more than a dump.
"I don't anticipate a fatal flaw in the economic impact study," Donahue said. "This schedule would still allow us to have the (financial) answers before we begin construction. That's the point where we would spend significant money."
Committee Chairman Theresa Barreiro said her initial instinct is to see if the study says the track is a financial winner before spending any money, significant or not. Her sentiment raised the question about why any money has been spent without seeing the results of the feasibility study.
Donahue said the more than a year of planning and initial engineering costs were necessary to determine if the creation of the track was even logistically possible. If it wasn't, then spending money on a financial feasibility study would've been a waste, he said.
County officials also doesn't want just any old track. They want a facility that meets the specifications required for NCAA cross country meets. The idea is to attract regional collegiate meets and multiple high school meets to the facility. A potential schedule of events envisions 13 meets, running from September to mid-November, that could generate $73,000 in parking revenue alone. There are no actual commitments in place for any meets at the facility, but Donahue said there has been abundant interest from local schools.
"Our commitment is to show how this can be funded, owned and operated without any property taxes," Donahue said.
County board members are also Kane County Forest Preserve District commissioners. To cut costs on the construction of the cross country track, they would like to match its construction with the labor required to add new holes and a driving range to the Settler's Hill Golf Course. That work is set to begin this coming spring.
With that in mind, board member Drew Frasz encouraged the committee to go forward with both the $200,000 engineering work and financial feasibility study.
"I feel that we're risking a little bit, but the risk is minimal," Frasz said. "So I'm willing to take a calculated risk and proceed with both of them."
The majority of the committee agreed. The full county board doesn't need to vote. Board members already included money for the engineering and financial study in the 2014 budget.