Some feedback for Imagine OPRF

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By Ellen Edwards

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commend the Imagine Team for its commitment and the comprehensive plans proposed. As a parent of an OPRF High School alumnus and a former OPRF Booster Club member, I agree that infrastructure improvements/repairs and other improvements are needed. As a taxpayer, I strongly object to the deluxe options chosen by the Imagine Team. Here's what I and many others imagine for OPRF:

 Priority 1: Become ADA compliant and remove obstacles to disabled students and special ed students. Put in ramps, an elevator in the south wing, make bathrooms and classroom entrances wheelchair-accessible. Make gender-neutral restrooms and changing rooms available throughout the building. Use existing/surplus funds to accomplish this. Do not increase our property taxes.

 Priority 2: Expand space and access to student-centered learning areas that can be used before, during, and after school, so that students who don't have tablets, computers, or printers at home will not be disadvantaged. If — and only if — it can be done within a reasonable budget, the Student Commons hub for student services, located in the center of the building is a great idea. Do not increase our property taxes.

 Priority 3: Renovate or replace the existing 25-meter pool to eliminate poor ventilation, falling ceiling tiles, and leaking, but keep the 25-meter size. We do not need a deluxe larger pool. Do not increase our property taxes.

 Priority 4: Address overcrowding and safety concerns in performing arts and physical education areas, but without a deluxe rebuilding option. Do not increase our property taxes.

 Priority 5: Schedule other repairs and renovations for future years as funds become available. Do not increase our property taxes.

Two suggestions:

 Invest in solar panels. The school has a huge footprint with plenty of usable roof area. Talk to the park district, which has reduced its energy bills by 20 to 25 percent after installing solar panels at Ridgeland Common and other locations. The Community Solar Program provides tax incentives and renewable energy credits. Contact the village of Oak Park Environmental Commission and/or Seven Generations Ahead and consult with their experts on this strategy. Publicize how much OPRF is saving and win points with the community. Do not increase our property taxes.

 After you revise the Imagine proposal to reflect this over-taxed community's desire for vastly more modest spending, create a vastly more transparent Imagine document that details each line item and its cost. My frustration with the existing handout we were provided at the Oct. 3 meeting lumps together too many projects in the "Scope of Work Summary" and attaches a huge number to each: $28.5 million, $66.7 million, $49.6 million. How did you get to these numbers? You make it impossible for the public to see where costs can be shaved. 

We need you to sharpen your pencils and trim costs. This community is not willing to be steamrolled into spending these colossal amounts of money, especially without seeing exactly how much is proposed on each improvement. Differentiate between needs and wants. 

Do not raise our property taxes. 

Ellen Edwards has been an Oak Park resident since 1974.

Reader Comments

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Mary Kay O'Grady  

Posted: October 18th, 2018 4:26 PM

Bingo.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: October 17th, 2018 11:14 AM

I can only encourage those that are outraged by the IMAGINE "over the top, taxpayer be damned" mega project, and the likelihood of the BoE going ahead and funding the monster independently of the electorate, to email the BoE and more importantly express your concerns at BoE meetings as well as the town hall meeting coming up later this month. If not, then get used to the idea of a new field house and gigantic swimming pool ... and a new (eventually bigger) tax bill too boot!

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2018 10:23 AM

At the school board meeting last evening, students and community leaders stepped up to the podium asking for equity. Not one of them asked for a new pool with seating for 600. Watching America To Me, I keep waiting for the part where the lack of an olympic pool is proven to be what is creating the gap, and it never seems to come. When are we going to send the Imagine team and their pool agenda packing? (I their so called hard work is not appreciated)

Charlie Kohler  

Posted: October 17th, 2018 9:49 AM

Ellen - Thank you for this. I think it exemplifies what so many residents feel. We appreciate the work Imagine has volunteered and the amount of time they invested over the last year. We agree that there are necessary changes that should be made at OPRF. But the proposal as presented is full of wants vs needs. The prime example is the proposed Aquatic Arena - when the idea you wrote fulfills needs. Thank you for putting many residents' thoughts into words.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: October 17th, 2018 9:47 AM

Ms. Edwards, ditto. Thanks. It's not too late to save Oak Park......I hope! At the very least, and I know that this will displease the mega-pool advocates, whatever plan that finally emerges should first go the voters. Again, thanks.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: October 17th, 2018 9:29 AM

thank you Ellen - you said almost exactly what I've been thinking! Let's hope the school board is listening (reading!) - and even if they figure out a way to build some portion of the plan without increasing our taxes in the short run, depleting the reserves to such a large degree as would be necessary to complete the first two sequences would certainly hurt the the taxpayers over time.

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