Plenty of community input on Imagine plan

Opinion: Columns

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By Jack Powers

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Most people are reasonable and support improvements to Oak Park and River Forest High School. Reasonable people support replacing the pools. "Yes" is the answer; "how" is the question.

Many reasonable people feel the excruciating property tax burden in this village. They appreciate the Imagine group's yeoman efforts in developing its plan. While having many sensible features, $218 million is an unreasonable amount of tax money, especially with unreasonable emphasis on a front-loaded, $67 million PE expenditure, including an unnecessarily large pool and 600-seat aquatic center.

The D200 school board says it formed the Imagine committee to study the school and develop a master facility plan. This is puzzling, the Board already had such a plan; the 2016 Long Term Facility Plan. And it had already commissioned a report on the school's pools and usage, the 2013 Stantec Report.

The District 200 school board says the Imagine group was formed to involve the community and gather community input. This, too, is puzzling. The board already had paid for research and facility plans and had years of extensive community input all prior to forming the Imagine committee, including:

2015 Non-referendum Bond Issue: over 4,300 individual pieces of feedback in the form of signatures on the Petition for Referendum that forced the board to put its funding for an Olympic-size pool/natatorium to referendum. Rather than face voters, the board revoked its bond issue, pulling it off the ballot

2016 Fako Research Report, commissioned by D200, revealed a pool was not a priority for the community and diminishing interest as survey pool cost options rose (survey listed three pool options, the $68 million option was 27% For, 69% Against. The Imagine pool costs $67 million)

2016 Referendum Bond Issue: 37,323 individual pieces of feedback - 17,852 No; 17,824 Yes, referendum defeated by 28 votes

Wednesday Journal, countless article, letters to the editor, comments over a period of years, all readily accessible to the board

Facebook Oak Park Property TaxWatch Group, formed in response to D200 and other taxing bodies' impacts on property tax bills, accessible to the board, which is welcome to participate in its discussions

Years of emails, letters, etc. from residents to the board

Reasonable people proposed a reasonable pool solution in 2016; the board said no. Influential pool supporters said no. The community didn't say no to a pool, just to an unreasonable pool. Is the board being reasonable, repeatedly avoiding voters, repeatedly promoting a grandiose pool unsupported by research and community input? Is the board being enabled (pressured?) by influential supporters of a grandiose pool facility?

The board should instruct those supporting a grandiose aquatic center, which requires demolishing a structurally sound building and spending $67 million, that it's an unjustifiable expense based on past research, community input, and property tax reality.

The D200 board manages one facility surrounded by millions of square miles of reality.

Jack Powers is an Oak Park resident.

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Adrian Rohrer  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 11:19 AM

Solid point. Good High Schools in Illinois (and across the country) have pools, and I find the "no pool at all position" just as unworkable as what's been proposed by Imagine. That said, the referendum squarely addressed whether the community supported a 600 seat vanity project pool, and it may have been close, but the majority said no. This issue has become so toxic that no plan may be able to avoid controversy, but I think many would like to see a lower-cost option get proposed and built, and put this issue to bed so we can move on to other concerns.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 10:13 AM

If the 100 kids on the swim team go to Fenwick to do their swimming and water polo, the rest of the town doesn't have to spend $220 million on their Olympic pool. But somehow we are still talking about a pool? The insanity has to stop.

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