With decisive no votes, elected leaders at Oak Park and River Forest High School and the River Forest Park District have effectively put the kibosh on a dubious plan to join the Park District of Oak Park in constructing a community center which would include an indoor pool, gymnasium, track, meeting rooms and other amenities.

The votes, taken over the past two weeks, were specifically to not extend the time period for the three taxing bodies to continue to explore funding and siting options for such a facility. The current pact expires on Dec. 1.

In River Forest, a survey of local residents found little appetite to help fund a facility located in Oak Park. And for the high school, it was the overdue conclusion that only confusion and doubt could result from its simultaneously planning and effectively funding both a community center and a major investment, including a new pool, on its own campus.

Perhaps in the interest of saving face, the two votes were contoured not as a full rejection of the plan but rather as a “timing is wrong” to proceed.

Actually, we’d suggest a fundamental flaw in the thinking behind this white elephant. Any taxing body, or trio of taxing bodies, that wants to undertake a building project costing as much as $47 million needs to go directly to taxpayers for collective permission to raise the funds. 

The notion that the super-sized piggy bank OPRF accumulated by grossly overtaxing property owners during the past decade might be tapped to make a loan to the Oak Park parks so it could eventually own this asset is nuts. We’re glad high school board members finally saw the remarkably bad optics of this. Drawing down financial reserves to loan the parks $20 million to fund construction, likely forcing the school to come back sooner to taxpayers for both a building and operating tax hike doesn’t make sense.

We’ll wait now for the school’s sincere Imagine OPRF committee to come back in 2018 with a plan for capital investments in the school campus, including a pool. 

Proponents of the community center project have noted that Wednesday Journal has been braying for 15 years to see active collaboration among our taxing bodies. We assumed it was implicit in our editorial position that possible collaborative projects could not be boondoggles.

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