Huntley parks officials return to drawing board on expansion
Huntley Park District officials will be taking a fresh look at future expansion plans after voters soundly rejected the district's roughly $18 million request to build an indoor, artificial turf facility.
More than 77 percent of voters on March 18 cast ballots against the project.
With not enough money to go it alone on such an expansion, officials have dropped the idea altogether, for now, Executive Director Thom Palmer said.
"The question has been asked and answered," he said. "Without funding, it doesn't get built. The park district does not have other sources of funds to build that type of facility. At this point in time, there are not any plans for expansion of that type in the future here."
Palmer said the park district does not maintain a huge fund balance, and its reserves are only "adequate to cover our operating costs in the event of a delayed tax payment" and other emergencies, not to finance capital projects.
The park board has not yet discussed any other expansion possibilities, he added.
Palmer said the board likely will continue to solicit feasible ideas from community groups and residents, "and another plan may arise in the future."
The board previously decided to hold off on the addition of an outdoor, competitive swimming pool at the Stingray Bay Aquatic Center, at Route 47 and Mill Street, with the hope of building an indoor pool someday.
The artificial turf field idea came from a 2011 community survey.
"Apparently there was a disconnect between those that took the survey and those that voted," Palmer said.
If voters had approved the borrowing plan last month, the district would have used a portion of the funds to possibly buy and develop more land or upgrade existing park facilities. The turf facility was estimated to cost roughly $16.5 million.
The indoor facility would have provided a practice field for soccer, lacrosse, softball and other field sports.
Officials tried explaining to constituents that they wouldn't have to pay more in property taxes because the district would restructure existing debt.
The district borrowed $9.35 million for the REC Center and aquatic center. That loan is set to be paid off next year. Similarly, a 15-year, $5.7 million loan to buy Pinecrest Golf Club is scheduled to to be retired by 2018.
Residents could see a reduction, on average, of $125 on their yearly park district tax bill once those loans are retired.
The 2011 survey, done as part of the park district's comprehensive plan, identified a wish-list of needs, which included an indoor pool. Top of that list was the artificial turf field idea, which officials selected to move forward with because it was the "most feasible and would serve the most people," Palmer said.
The park district serves 40,000 residents within the village, the western portions of Lake in the Hills and Algonquin, and rural areas west of Huntley.
Residents do have another option for in door recreation. A new field house is planned at Huntley High School that could potentially be used by area youth sports groups.