By Megan Dooley
After more than four years of research and planning, a recent community survey has inspired the Park District of Oak Park Board of Commissioners to revisit cost estimates for plans to renovate or rebuild the recreational buildings at Ridgeland Common.
The 2010 survey showed that 60 percent of respondents support a plan to repair and maintain the current building, while 40 percent of respondents called for the construction of a new facility with an outdoor swimming pool and indoor ice arena.
But the board said cost estimates for the projects are now outdated and must be redone before the board moves forward with plans to repair or rebuild.
"I don't think we can make any real decisions until we get hard costs," said Commissioner Christine Graves at a meeting of the park board last Thursday night. "I know we've kind of got squishy figures, but we want to make sure the money we spend is not going down into a black hole of constant repair."
"We came up with what we wanted," said board President Mark Gartland, of the survey results. "I think we need to start now with what we can afford. I guess that's part of the discussion we should go into now."
Executive Director Gary Balling asked that a board member consider sitting down with him and other staff members for that discussion. "Most of our information is now a year and a half, two years old," he said.
But Balling said he thinks he knows where the discussion will end. "I think ultimately the recommendation is going to be ... that we really need to look at a new Ridgeland Common," he said.
Graves said that despite the results of the survey, repairing the building might not be the most financially sound route. "It might actually cost more than tearing it down and starting new," she said.
Commissioner Jessica Bullock thinks something needs to be done in the next year, but no option should be discounted. "Sixty percent recommended renovating. We can't in good faith ignore that," she said. "I think we need to keep both options on the table."
Bullock agreed to continue the discussion with Balling at a later date.