When I joined the Park District Citizens' Committee (PDCC), I shared the concerns that Judy and Bill Southwick raised at a recent PDCC meeting regarding the condition of the pool at the Oak Park Center, particularly the locker rooms. The YMCA was a little better, but I still could not believe that a park district with more than 50,000 residents did not have a first-class heated indoor swimming and fitness facility for seniors and others. (In case you think it's all about the kids, I also found out that the park district does not own its own indoor basketball court).
I visited many of the park district facilities during our study and they are in very bad condition. It was not hard to conclude that the current need for across-the-board renovation trumps the need for new facilities. Indoor facilities like Ridgeland Common, where I take my grandchildren for the indoor playground, and where I swim in the summer, are in very bad shape and the entrance to our beloved Scoville Park in the heart of the village is simply an embarrassment. Quite frankly, most of us would not allow our homes to get into such condition.
I know the park district is constantly exploring opportunities to cooperate with other governmental bodies, such as the high school, to build a pool, but when you look at the scheduling of the existing pools, gyms and playfields in town, they are in use almost all the time. It's not easy. I don't want a swimming class at 6 a.m. or midnight.
As a young senior citizen, I will continue to grumble?#34;but in a nice way?#34;about a heated indoor pool and fitness center, but I look at it this way: What if you had a wonderful old house here in Oak Park that you hadn't kept up for the past 30 years? If you came into some money and decided to add a swimming pool and workout room, the architects and contractors would give you a very long list indeed of what had to be done to the plumbing, flooring, heating, etc., before you could think of anything new.
Alas, the park district story is quite simple. It's one of deferred maintenance and no money for capital improvements for too many years. The Park District of Oak Park has been at the bottom of everyone's list for far too long. It hasn't asked for a tax rate increase in 30 years and the current amount we pay is just a sliver of our whole tax bill.
An additional $1.3 million each year, which will be sought in the April referendum, is not pleasant given our current tax bills, but it is an absolute minimum for making needed improvements across the board.