On Sept. 22, the OPRF High School board issued a statement that said if its $44.5M pool referendum question doesn’t pass in November, the board would begin new deliberations rather than consider the available and vetted pragmatic pool plan. The board statement glaringly failed to explain its rationale. Why would the board refuse to consider the most practical and least expensive of all pool plans and the overwhelming favorite of voters in the school’s recent, objective phone survey?
Legat, the board’s own architects, fully vetted and drew up the pragmatic pool plan this year, and the plan was also recommended in two different board-commissioned engineering studies, the 2013 Stantec Report and the 2003 Wight Report.
The pragmatic pool plan would provide superior aquatic facilities than the school has ever known. It would expand the East Pool into the South Gym and build a brand-new, 8-lane, 25-yard, deep competition pool that supports diving. It would also include seating for 300 spectators and all the extras. Unlike the engineering studies, Legat’s plan also includes a brand-new, 4-lane, 25-yard, water safety pool in the West Pool site.
By any standard, these pools are expensive at $22.3 million. The price tags for other proposed or recently built high school pools in Illinois range from $9-15 million. Yet, the pragmatic pool plan still costs less than the board’s revised 40-meter pool plan, and if similar cuts were made to the performing arts elements of the pragmatic pool plan that were made to the school board’s revised plan, the pragmatic pool plan would cost dramatically less than its current total estimate of $39.9 million.
According to the school’s own pool usage chart and its athletic director, the pragmatic pool plan meets all of the school’s aquatic needs and increases community pool usage. Moreover, the board plan would demolish the garage with 25 years of serviceable life, per the board’s engineer, and build a smaller garage, wasting more than 12 million taxpayer dollars.
Important to note, this same garage was thoughtfully built in 2003 with future needs in mind and can accommodate another level of parking, classrooms or any other space needs. The existing garage enables rather than prohibits any future expansion needs for the school.
The board now deceptively promotes its pool plan as a “facilities and a performing arts and learning spaces” plan, even though only $4.3 million would be spent on one orchestra room, one band room and six classrooms. That’s it, whereas $37.3 million would go to the oversized pool and garage expenditures.
The board’s statement is a passive-aggressive, political maneuver to try to manipulate the vote in November. The scare tactic is the 2016 version of last year’s board action that tried but failed to prevent us from voting on a previous $48.5 million, 50-meter pool plan that would have eliminated all parking at the high school.
Thanks to everyone who signed the Petition for Referendum and helped reclaim our right to vote on this massive project. The board’s latest action is just one more reason to vote NO in NOvember.
Monica Sheehan is a member of OPRF Pragmatic Pool Solutions.