Fight ahead after D200 board chooses pool plan

Plan B, which calls for a new pool and a new garage, may be cut by $7.3M in the weeks ahead

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

At an Aug. 1 special meeting, the District 200 school board voted unanimously on a long-term facilities and pool construction plan for Oak Park and River Forest High School.

Plan B would construct a new 40-meter swimming pool and new parking garage on the site of the existing garage. It would also include a range of facilities improvements to accommodate the school's growing enrollment. The total cost of the plan is estimated at $54 million.

At the Aug. 1 meeting, board members approved the plan, which was presented to community members in July along with two others, but noted that it may likely be replaced at a meeting on Aug. 16 by a slightly altered version that is less exhaustive and several million dollars cheaper. 

Board members noted that they are prepared to scale back the cost and scope of the plan in anticipation of what a recent phone survey of registered voters in the district shows will likely be an uphill battle to persuade voters to sign off on a referendum bond — which would cover just over half of the plan's cost — on the Nov. 8 ballot. 

None of the three options up for consideration garnered majority support from the residents polled in the phone survey. After the board decided on Plan B — as opposed to the cheapest plan, an estimated $40 million proposal referred to as Plan A — some residents vowed to put up put up vigorous opposition to the plan over the next several months as the district tries to drum up support for it. 

Monica Sheehan, who led a successful petition drive last December that forced the board to reconsider its previously approved proposal to sell $17.5 million in non-referendum bonds to fund a new aquatics center that would include demolishing the existing parking garage, told board members at Monday's meeting that if they didn't vote on Plan A, a group called OPRF Pragmatic Pool Solutions, the organization she formed last year, would "publicly oppose [the board's] future efforts." 

Before Monday's four-hour meeting adjourned, a group called the Vote Yes D200 Referendum Committee, was already working on a statement in support of the board's plan. The committee includes Wayne Franklin and Matt Kosterman, who both filed a joint objection to the more than 4,300 petition signatures Sheehan's group gathered. The objection was tossed out during a Cook County electoral hearing. 

Plan B calls for constructing a 40-meter by 25-yard competition pool with a diving well on the existing garage site, eliminating the crumbling east and west pools, and repurposing the natatorium space that houses them. The plan would demolish the current garage and replace it with a brand new, 4-story, 331-space parking facility.

The plan also entailed much-needed renovations to accommodate the high school's growing enrollment levels. It calls for increasing classroom space by 10,700 square feet at the high school to accommodate growing participation in the school's performing arts department, renovating the boys' gym locker rooms to address health and safety concerns, and renovating underutilized third-floor computer lab and classroom space into technology-advanced classrooms shared by multiple teachers and classes. 

The cost to build and renovate the pool and garage was estimated at $43.5 million while the performing arts, locker room and third-floor classroom renovations would cost an additional $5.8 million, $2.8 million and $1.6 million, respectively. The total cost of Option B was estimated at $54 million, $35 million of which would be funded by referendum bonds.

The typical home in Oak Park and River Forest would see an increase of $126 and $190 a year with the option, respectively. 

The board anticipates approving a final, slightly altered version of Plan B that would call for no more than $45 million in long-term facilities improvements and pool construction, no more than $25 million of which would be funded by referendum bonds. The cheaper plan would likely mean less of a tax hike for average homeowners, but the specific amount of the reduction won't be determined until the board votes on the type of bond it decides to put up for a vote in November. 

Board member Fred Arkin cited a July 28 memo by Todd Altenberg, D200's chief business officer, when arguing for at least $7.3 million in cost savings that could come from reducing the scale of facilities renovations and pool construction plans. The bulk of the proposed cost reductions were connected to building a 3-story garage with fewer spaces, which would save around $3.4 million, and eliminating renovations to the black box theater and choir space, which would save around $3.1 million. 

D200 board President Jeff Weissglass said the board would try identifying more cost savings in the weeks to come. The board directed Legat Architects to scrutinize the district's proposed cost reductions and bring back a revised plan that includes the cost savings on Aug. 16, when the board is scheduled to take a final vote on the referendum question.

The board's Aug. 1 decision comes days after the polling firm Fako Research and Strategies presented a report summarizing the findings of a phone survey of registered voters. The board commissioned the survey to gauge residents' sentiment on a pending referendum.

The survey found that none of the three long-term facilities options up for consideration earned majority approval from respondents. Most were either undecided on, or totally opposed to, each plan and considered any project exceeding a $75 average property tax increase as unreasonable.

Plan A, a $39.9 million plan, the least expensive of the three, called for replacing the east pool with a 25-yard competition pool and a diving well, and the west pool with a separate warm-up pool. It would keep the current garage. Forty-seven percent of Oak Park and River Forest respondents were opposed to, and 8 percent were undecided on, the plan. Forty-six percent of respondents were in favor of it. 

Fifty-six percent of respondents registered opposition to the board's chosen Plan B. Seven percent of respondents were undecided and 37 percent were in favor of the plan. 

Plan C, an estimated $64 million proposal which included building a 40-meter underground competition pool below the baseball field, eliminating the two old pools, repurposing both natatorium spaces and keeping the garage, was the least popular among respondents, with nearly 70 percent registering opposition. 

All three pool construction options entailed performing arts, boys' gym locker room and third-floor classroom renovations, with the district allocating up to $20 million, on top of the pool construction costs, for these other capital improvements. 

At the Aug. 1 meeting, most board members said Plan A only presented marginal improvements to the state of the high school's present aquatics facilities. While some board members lauded Option C as the more creative and visionary of the three plans, most concluded that its potential risks and complications weren't sufficiently vetted and that the cost was too high. 

"(Plan) C is not a fiscally responsible option for us at this point," said board member Jennifer Cassell, who added that, "It's too risky to be going underground." 

Most board members argued that Plan B presented a balance between their duties to be fiscally responsible and to maintain OPRF's tradition of daring, particularly when it comes to designing facilities.

Board members Jackie Moore and Steve Gevinson both recalled reading old newspapers and history books on OPRF that detailed its motto, which is "Those things that are best," Gevinson said. 

Moore said she read a 1928 issue of the Oak Leaves, which noted that Oak Park was the first community in the country to build a field house that made space for girls to take physical education. 

"We were the first," she said, before noting that Plan A would simply "maintain the status quo."

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct for numerous inaccuracies with respect to several long-term facilities plans. Wendnesday Journal regrets the errors.

Reader Comments

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Michael Nevins  

Posted: August 8th, 2016 9:41 PM

Two possibilities for the D200 board make the only sense to me: they are tired of the non-stop phone calls, etc. from the pool parents and, knowing that a referendum defeat is likely (remember, they paid for the poll which precisely predicted that), just decided to wash their hands of the whole thing and "allowed" OP & RF voters to just finally vote on the pool parents dream. If they lose, they can say, "well, hey, we tried - now go away while we go with the rehab of the existing pools and then focus on the real reasons we originally decided to run for the board (which certainly wasn't to build the most expensive high school pool on the planet!). The other possibility, and I certainly hope this isn't true, is that they are full of hubris (it WAS a 7-0 vote) and truly believe that they are the lords and masters of all decisions which pertain to OPRF. I certainly hope that their decision was based on Mr. Machiavelli (option 1) and not on a massive overdose of "group think" and a Mr. Corleone dream!

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: August 8th, 2016 6:51 PM

Let me take it a bit larger. Let's vote NO on the Pool Referendum, the election of any Oak Park Village incumbent, any D200 board whose member votes Yes on the referendum, and any increase in taxes. Clearly our elected officers believe that they have all the power in OP and the OP residents are clueless! It is time for a BIG opinion from the village!

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: August 8th, 2016 5:54 PM

@ Doug Springer: I would like to make one addition to your comment. The statement should read "Why, knowing that student enrollment (thus faculty, too) and pension benefits is on the increase"" What is left out of the issue is a request to the faculty and staff of the HS that they take some type of pay freeze in order to pay for the pool. After all, the pool will be a benefit to their students.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: August 8th, 2016 2:29 PM

Doug: You wrote: "Why would The Board vote unanimously for an option which will not pass a referendum in November?" Never say never In a campaign, or in politics. And that is what this is. This is a campaign by the school board, via their surrogates: a small but highly vocal and organized group of swim advocates whose advocacy borders on delusional evangelical fervor. That campaign's end result is to leave a bricks and mortar legacy: a shiny new glorious swim palace whose benefit is to the few but whose cost is to the many. There is NO guarantee that the referendum will be rejected - it may very well pass - unless you and I and thousands of other like minded outraged citizens work our tails off to ensure that this insanity is soundly rejected in November. We will have to work diligently for a resounding NOinNOvember.

Doug Springer  

Posted: August 8th, 2016 12:47 PM

This School Board has gone rogue. They have successfully unattached themselves from their constituency and are acting, as has been done so many times before, solely on ego and greed. The time is now to question their motives. The Board requested and paid for (with taxpayer money of course) both the community engagement meetings as well as the phone survey. The data from both concluded the only option that has a chance of passing a referendum in November is what is called Option A, completely gutting the existing two pools and building 100% brand new pools in the existing spaces. Option A is half the cost of what the Board has approved taking to referendum. Why would The Board vote unanimously for an option which will not pass a referendum in November? One reason might be they feel they need to leave behind a legacy, another might be they want to defer all decision-making to the next incoming School Board. Why too, would the Board, which is chartered with stewardship of taxpayer monies, choose to approve an option which is twice the cost of an option which fulfills the needs of all swim programs and includes more time for community aquatics, for a pool which is larger than necessary for High School competitions, but is not large enough to train for university or Olympic long course bids? Why, knowing that student enrollment (thus faculty too) is on the increase would the Board approve tearing down a highly used parking structure which has a minimum useful life of 25 years ahead of it and is still mortgaged, for a smaller (read less spaces) parking structure? None of this makes sense. The constituency has spoken loudly and clearly ?" fiscal responsibility is at top of mind. The only thing to do now is to VOTE NO on this referendum in November and force the charters of stewardship and fiscal responsibility straight in the faces of the School Board.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2016 3:58 PM

I don't understand why we cannot collect the money upfront, then build a pool based on the funds collected. If we collect $1,000 from every Oak Park resident, we would have $55 million to spend. A family of 4 would only have to write a check for $4,000. Another way to finance the pool would be to charge $100 everytime someone went swimming. Maybe we give divers a discount and only charge $50 a dive. With enough creative thinking, we can get this done.

Susan Raphael  

Posted: August 6th, 2016 12:34 AM

What concerns me about this proposal is the fact that 2017 is a reassessment year and looking at the current property value trends in Oak Park- we are in for some major property tax hikes. This compounded with D97's referendum request may result in significant property tax increases in Oak Park. All of this needs to be considered in context of the times.

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: August 5th, 2016 11:13 PM

Mike, that's an excellent point to underscore. The pragmatic pool plan improves the aquatic resources at OPRF in a significant and in the most cost effective way of all the pool plans considered over the past several years. Moreover, its annual total maintenance cost would be much less than the pool plan, Option B, approved by the school board on Monday night. The pool decision should rightfully be made balancing the cost/benefit and the community's interest of any plan. Yet, the school board actually voted against the pool plan that the District 200 community overwhelmingly favored in the school board's-own, objective phone survey. The time is long overdue that the school board listen and act in response to the wider community rather than the special-interest, pool lobby in making such a major funding and long term facility decision.

Mike Poirier  

Posted: August 5th, 2016 10:19 PM

Worth noting that a no vote on this referendum does not mean the end of or even curtailment of any aquatics programs at the HS. If the referendum is defeated in November, the HS will simply implement the lower cost option that they already have, but did not choose. That option, by the way, provides aquatic facilities that are superior in every way to anything the HS has ever had, including what they have now.

Greta Drane  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 7:30 PM

I would hate to see the program go, because I want more swimmers to be able to experience what I have. I also don't want them to have to deal with the issues I have had to deal with. I have seen rats and mice run across the pool deck numerous times and a mouse once even got in the pool. I also hope that the future huskies will be able to breathe easily in the new pool as my entire team now is struggling with breathing. This new pool will be extremely beneficial to the school and the community. Go huskies!

Greta Drane  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 5:45 PM

Hi. My name is Greta Drane. I am 16 years old and I play waterpolo and swim for OPRF. These teams have gifted me with some of the best memories and I have met so many people I considered best friends.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 12:32 PM

Mr. Brightfield: The best way for all of us to express our justified anger is to vote NO in November and encourage everyone we know to vote NO too. That's the resounding message our group, OPRF Pragmatic Pool Solutions, will spread throughout the community, Just vote NO! Tell the school board NO $43.5 million, 40-meter pool, NO irresponsible demolition of the relatively-new, structurally-sound garage, and NO more wasteful spending! Contact me on Facebook and help us bring a resounding NO vote to the school board and the pool lobby in November. We should all be outraged by the school board's decision to ignore District 200's wishes, clearly and objectively recorded in the school board's own phone survey, and drag our community through months more of unnecessary strife and division. Since January alone, the school board has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars trying to justify building a legacy pool. These costs include payments to a consultant to organize and oversee the community meetings, two direct mailings and newspaper ads to publicize the meetings along with other costs associated with the five meetings, additional fees to the architects, an expensive and comprehensive phone survey to assess registered voters' interest in and desire to pay for a pool, and a structural study of the parking garage. One could argue that these costs were justified IF the school board actually voted in accordance with their collective findings, but that's NOT the case. The school board voted to ignore them and to ignore all of us. On Monday night, the school board once again aligned itself with the pool lobby just as it did last November when the school board voted to bypass taxpayers and issue non-referendum bonds for a $37.5 million, 50-meter pool that would have demolished the parking garage, leaving no required on-site, off-street parking. Just vote NO!

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 12:03 PM

The "bundling" for all three options, A, B and C, and calling these "long term facility plans" is truly brazen. That's one big Trojan Horse.

Barbara Purington from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 10:53 AM

One more question: what happened to idea of collaborating with the park district on a year-round swimming facility, perhaps enclose Ridgeland Common pool for use by the public and OPRF swimmers alike? It has to cost less than what's proposed. The RC pool is already there, in use for only three months a year. Seems like the most reasonable plan to me and a good example of repurposing a public facility to meet community needs.

Barbara Purington from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 10:38 AM

@ Brian S., Thank you for the explanation. I agree with you 100% that the money in reserve should be returned to the taxpayers, leaving only a six month reserve or whatever the recommended amount is. How does District 200 get away with this? Why aren't tax paying residents rising up in protest? Of note, the day has come when the monthly mortgage payment on this-old-104 yrs. old-crumbling house is the same as property tax amount divided by twelve months. Our taxes have tripled in 18 years (no improvements, none). I file a tax appeal at every opportunity.

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 9:53 AM

Brian, that number is incorrect. We won't know the property tax impact until the school board finalizes its "cuts" to Option B and votes on its final price tag and funding, including the interest costs of the bond issue. Sue is correct in that whatever number is finally floated will be for a taxpayer living in the median priced home in Oak Park and River Forest, those numbers differ, and if your home is priced higher or lower the dollar amount is adjusted accordingly. Two other key points to remember are that we will also be voting on whether we give consent to spending an additional $20 million of our overtaxed dollars, that should rightfully be returned to us, to pay for a 40-meter pool and to tear down the garage, possibly leaving us with less permanent on-site parking and no parking during the two years of construction. The entire construction cost of any capital project should be financed with bonds-only, to spread out the cost to those who will benefit from the expenditure. The school board's deceptive action in bundling the pool with other components that have not been vetted, intended to broaden acceptance of the legacy pool plan, is unacceptable. Furthermore, Option B consists of a large unnecessary addition to the school. The school board still has yet to release the total annual cost to operate this new addition, along with the cost to operate its 40-meter pool. We are the ones who will be paying for these substantial, increased operating costs. The bond issue will be for partial-construction costs alone.

Mick McDonnell from River Forest  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 9:52 AM

Enough is, quite simply, enough! Stop wasting other peoples' money. Board members, understand that your job is to represent your constituents...not to act as their betters and feed them the medicine that they're not smart enough to know they need. Parking garage...you libs are supposed to be against fossil fuels, right...why are we encouraging the use of cars by building a parking deck? I'll buy a couple of bike racks, pay for it on my own...problem solved. To address the increased enrollment issue...has anybody bothered watching as all the kids from Austin unload from the buses each morning? Can we issue a bond to hire an investigator who can document where these students truly live & get kids who aren't in this district out of our schools? I know, I know...save your effort. That's racist. Sure it is. Don't refute the facts, instead smear the speaker. D200 & the board members will have one hell of a fight on their hands as they try to pursue this foolish endeavor. Enough. Is. Enough.

Doug Kittredge from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 8:29 AM

Are they kidding? Have they not noticed another pool literally across the street that is closed for the school year. Reducing parking? Wasn't it this last spring that they requested a change in parking around the school to handle the current overflow? The logic of this completely eludes me - definitely planning on voting against the bond referendum unless the board can communicate some logic to their thinking.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 8:14 AM

The "$76 per year" is the lie that supporters use to get what they want and make it seem cheap. It's much more than that for everyone involved, it goes up over time, it adds up to thousands of dollars over the time the taxpayer will be here paying it and it helps make your property harder to sell -- which has its own extra cost.

Brian Souders  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 8:13 AM

@Barbara Purington: The ginormous reserve fund has been created by D200 overtaxing us about the past 10 years. The theory is that a capital improvement benefitting future residents should be paid by future residents, not just present/past residents. That's why the pool funding structure is $20 million from the reserve (past residents) and $25 million as a bond/tax increase (residents of next 50 years). What really should be happening is that the district lowers our taxes until the reserve fund is I believe 6 months cash (what their blue ribbon committee determined as "best practice"), and doing a bond/referendum for the pool. But...they love taking and keeping and spending our money, as Plan B approval shows.

Sue Luther  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 7:59 AM

Just a correction, the $76 a year per household estimate is for the average Oak Park house of approximately $236,000 in value. River Forest's estimate for the average house is slightly higher. So if your house is worth more than the average, then your estimated increase would be more.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: August 4th, 2016 6:16 AM

@ Monica Sheehan: Asking yet again, is there any mention of the yearly operating costs per plan? While some say, "It is only $76.00 per household per year that is the cost now,, that cost must rise as labor and material costs rise..

Barbara Purington from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 10:50 PM

Larry Skiver: Good Pont. What about all the millions the District 200 already extracted from the taxpayers? At one point the reserve was up to over $120 million. Could someone explain why this money is not being utilized in toto for school building projects? It makes no sense to ask for even a dollar more of taxes from property owners when the district has enormous cash reserves. What am I missing here?

Eric Brightfield  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 10:18 PM

The thing I am most shocked at is the number of posters saying they are " disappointed ". I am sure we are all used to the school board pulling crap like this but to be " disappointed ". People. This is angry citizens in the street with flaming torches territory , They are apparently not LISTENING. Only the board and a few parents want this pool. We have TWO pools. They are crumbling !? Okay. They are occupying space . Then tear them out and build two brand new pools for $20 M and we are done. Worked for 100 + years. I WAS on my HS swim team in St. Louis. We didn't even have a pool we took a bus 1 mile to a community pool and we almost won state. My brother set a state record for the 100M fly. And we didn't have ONE pool ! Excuse me but isn't HS athletics all about teaching our kids that it's all about their will and drive to succeed and not about having only the SECOND 50M HS pool in Illinois? Just tell me where I show up with my flaming torch. This has entered Seinfeld "bizarro world" proportions ! I've said it before but there is proof out there that the existing garage was ordered and prepaid for / committed to BEFORE that March "Vote" was taken so please forgive my "once bitten- twice shy" stance on how crazy fiscally irresponsible this act is

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 9:42 PM

Brian, you are correct on all points. Also, a major cut in Option B concerns parking. The school board is proposing a reduction in the number of parking spaces in Option B from 331 to 239. This would result in 61 fewer spaces than currently exists. On school days, the garage is fully parked, and overflow cars already park on East/West streets around OPRF. For safety reasons, student cars that line both sides of Chicago Avenue and blocks north of it should all be moved to available spaces along South Boulevard. While OPRF has stated that there is no need for additional classroom space to accommodate the projected increase of 300 students by 2020, the enrollment spike will result in an increased demand for parking for the additional teachers, staff and some students. More parking not less will be needed. The existing garage was built with future needs in mind and can be expanded to accommodate at least another level of parking. Your support is appreciated!

Lizzy Silber from Oak park   

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 9:35 PM

Hello my name is Lizzy Silber, I am 14 years old and I swim and play Waterpolo for Oak Park River Forest. It has been the greatest year of my life. I have been swimming my whole life and it has made me who I am today. It has tought me responsibility and discipline. Swimming, Waterpolo, and synchronized swimming helps many people and gives them a chance that not a lot of other sports do. I do not come from a wealthy family and I am only 14 but I know that for plan B it will only be 76 dollars more per household. Plan B also benefits the arts such as band and orchestra not just the swimmers, Waterpolo players, and sychronized swimmers. Also swimmers, Waterpolo players, and synchronized swimmers are not the only ones using the pool, every kid uses the pool and should know how to swim. I thought that oprf was suppose to represent those things that are best for everyone not just for a select few.

Brian Souders  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 7:11 PM

This must be why when they emailed the "long term facilities plan" with the arts additions to those of us requesting more information with absolutely ZERO rationale or supporting research. Someone suggested they add the arts to the sell job and they threw the band room/theatre plans together with the architects. We should have discussions about spending $50 in taxpayer money. But man, the more I look at it, the high school has operated pretty shamelessly in acting to spend so much and raising taxes for something outside core educational mission. More evidence sports make people crazy.

Brian Souders from South Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 7:04 PM

Monica, great points. The research shows residents don't really support a pool, especially not one around $50 million/$150 per year property tax increase. But by saying it's a long term facilities plan supporting the arts, support goes up. But look closer and the Taj Mahal pool people get what they want, with another $10 million tacked on for some better band rooms. Look closer at the comments by board members, and you see that $10-15 million is what is being targeted to reduce the cost. So come referendum time, it will be a $43 million pool with $2 million in band room work to sell it as supporting arts. Good for the pool people and certain civic egos, bad for taxpayers. Monica, how can I help moving forward?

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 6:41 PM

Barbara, it is incredible that the school board voted unanimously for Option B when its very own phone survey revealed the following results, copied directly from the report. "When presented with the $54 million plan, opposition increases: 56% Oppose (32% Strongly / 24% Somewhat). Just under two-fifths of residents (37%) favor this version, though support is lukewarm with 28% only somewhat in favor of the plan and 9% strongly in favor." It's important to highlight that cellular phones were included in the phone survey and accounted for 46% of all weighted interviews. The survey provides the only objective data on the community's interest in and desire to fund a pool. The survey has a 5% margin of error. For the first time in the years-long, pool discussion, we actually heard the school board mention on Monday night that it wants to impose a budget on the project and cut Option B's price tag from $54 million to $45 million. The school board's obvious goal is to lower the price bringing it closer to Option A, the least expensive pool and plan. Yet, Option B's reduced price tag will make any comparison to Option A an "apples to oranges" comparison. As mentioned in other posts, the addition of performing arts, technology and other learning spaces have not been vetted, but were tacked on to the long term facility plan to increase support for a pool. In fact, Fako Research & Strategies, who conducted the phone survey, highlights in its conclusion that the addition of these other spaces make any pool plan much more appealing to voters. (Thanks Ellen for your support!)

Larry Skiver  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 6:37 PM

I heard that the school has lots of money. Use that. If you want the pool, then you pay for the pool. Start a go fund me account. See where that gets you. DONT RAISE My TAXES!!!!!

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 6:16 PM

Karen Krug Anderson- the famous/infamous quote attributed to Ernest Hemmingway is in dispute with most scholars who have studied the great writer. There's really no evidence that he ever spoke or wrote those disparaging words about his hometown and, in fact, actually expressed many fond memories of living in our community.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 5:58 PM

Slightly off-topic, but still relevant: I believe it was about 6 years ago (Fall of 2010) that the swim team was forced to leave campus & use facilities elsewhere because the State of Illinois had not yet approved the $1,000,000+ repair District 200 completed over that summer. I mention this as a reminder that when the powers-that-be are spending Other People's Money, their concern for the bottom line is virtually non-existent.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 5:04 PM

@ Karen Krug Anderson: To the best of my knowledge,Poppa was born in Oak Park, or Cicero, grew up here and left as a young man, but I don't think he ever paid real estate taxes in Oak Park.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 4:55 PM

Kane undergoes a terrifying transformation on Raw: Raw.

Barbara Purington from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 4:52 PM

Fifty-six percent of respondents were opposed to Plan B, yet the board approved it? Whom does the board represent? Ideas: 1. Work out a lease agreement with Triton College for the OPRF high school swim club to use the pool. 2. Look into whether Concordia would be interested in getting the college pool up and running again for Concordia students, OPRF high swimmers and others. It fills a need in the OP and RF communities for year-round family swimming. There's no need for swimming classes in the gym curriculum since OP park district, RF Tennis Club, Fenwick, Triton, and the YMCA offer low cost lessons.

Ellen Edwards from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 4:51 PM

I am disappointed at the board's decision. If the existing garage has another 20 or 25 years of life in it, let's keep it! Option A is the most reasonable, financially responsible choice. We need a board that exercises more restraint instead of trying to burden our lower and middle class taxpayers with more debt. I will vote NO in the referendum. Monica Sheehan, won't you please run for the District 200 school board?

Karen Krug Anderson  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 4:46 PM

"broad lawns and narrow minds", Hemingway was so right.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 4:42 PM

Why do I engage in the mental masturbation of these Boards. Anytime you raise an issue, always a gotcha. For example, we need to innovate and return OPRF to top 10 in state ratings of 80's (for gap and non gap students), create new programs etc. and someone responds - starts early, nothing we can do - parents fault etc. Enough - I am as the feeling is far less than pleasurable than expected :-)

Al Rossell  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 4:18 PM

don't forget when your assessment is increased by the county, your taxes will go up proportionately. How much did your bill go up this year?.

Valerie Spiller  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 4:15 PM

Our community is growing and so must the high school if we intend to provide the educational, athletic, and creative activities that attract people to Oak Park in the first place. Our pools are outdated and frankly embarrassing. If the plan B provides a new pool and keeps/improves the parking structure along with updating other facilities, I think that's great. As far as the educational GAP, schools can only do so much. The GAP begins at a much earlier stage than HS. We need to find a way to address underperformance early on. As a public district, we cannot "require" parental participation or accountability however, ultimately, that's what needs to happen. I am African American.

Tom Coffman  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 4:08 PM

Why not let those wealthy folks who want this start a fundraising plan. Us lower middle class folks are dealing with massive property tax increases this year, and are anticipating more next year and on and on with the reassessment. This won't pass unless the price is the smallest presented.

Bob Kane from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 3:59 PM

If John Murtagh is opposed it can't be all bad

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 3:31 PM

Definitely No for OPRF Pool!

Greg Lamacki  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 1:27 PM

I will vote not to issue the bonds and kill this idea. I find this absurd use of tax dollars in an environment with less than desired academic performance. My guess are bonds are voted down 60 to 40. Clip and save.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 12:03 PM

Sorry about the typo and poor grammar. On my phone and having issues ..

Christopher Bell  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 12:00 PM

Many of the interest represented frankly do not have to worry weather their child will go to college etc. Who is representing the interests of others? That is the Boards job from goverenance. I attended OPRF and was luck enough to go to U of I, University of Chicago and Harvard - we need to make sure all students have equal access - not promise but at least the resources if they are willing to put in the work. I am African American.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 11:44 AM

Your comments Rang the Bell!!!

Christopher Bell  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 11:30 AM

It would be wonderful if the Board spent as much time and intellectual horsepower to attack the gap between blacks/latinos/low income. Many of the students leave OPRF with the promise of a life of poverty and under/un employment. Perhaps announce programs whih really address the core need - our kids face a globally competitive world and learning to swim is great but has no bearing on what really matter. If we are really committed to excellence - what about the students?

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 9:58 AM

Brian, I agree with you about political savvy. When I first saw the performing arts bundling, I thought it was a brilliant move. As someone who attended all four years at a private performing and visual arts high school in Chicago, I can attest that families of school-aged kids involved in the arts are as, if not more, fanatical than pool parents. In addition, D200 is using the same playbook D97 used a few years back to get people to vote for its referendum. At that time, the threat was that if people didn't vote for it, then the arts in the schools would suffer. So while I agree it is a brilliant and savvy move, as someone who has been in the arts in front and behind the scenes professionally, for over thirty years, I do think it's shameless. Looking forward to the next three months and seeing how this will all shake out.

Brian Souders  

Posted: August 3rd, 2016 8:58 AM

While I do not agree with the decision, there is a positive that the board and staff showed less bungling and a bit of political savvy. By bundling the arts facilities improvements with the pool, the extravagant pool project can be sold to the community as improvements for the arts, too. You can see this already in the letter published on this site just hours after the board voting in their favor from the pool lobbying group - these aquatics obsessives suddenly have become huge fans of band and orchestra and drama! (Anyone notice the arts initiatives are the main target of the targeted 15% cost reduction? Hmmmmm). Again, shame on the board for using our tax dollars on a status symbol and sports, but good on them for at least beginning to smartly sell an idea to the community.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: August 2nd, 2016 10:38 PM

Michael, bruce kleinman here. That was the original intent of Petition for Referendum way back in November of last year: to put this issue before the voters. As much as I personally think this project is absolutely inane, it belongs where it should have been almost a year ago: in front of the voters of D200. If the voters of D200 think this project is the greatest thing since white bread, it will pass; if not, it won't - that is how it should be and that is how it should have been. Be sure to vote please.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: August 2nd, 2016 9:59 PM

I'm shocked, just shocked, that the D200 Board voted unanimously for the pool plan which the pool parents always wanted! All the months and thousands of dollars spent and they arrive at more or less what they've wanted from Day 1? Thank you Monica and friends for obtaining those 4,000+ signatures so that this potential property tax increase question can go before the voters. Regardless of the outcome, no one can argue that everyone has had their opportunity to vote!

Bruce Kline  

Posted: August 2nd, 2016 9:35 PM

"Lots more to come on this issue!" Oh yeah, that I can promise.

Judith Alexander from Oak Park  

Posted: August 2nd, 2016 8:54 PM

I'd feel better about this article if quote marks were used in this sentence, as follows: The plan also entailed "much-needed renovations" to accommodate the high school's growing enrollment levels. I participated in two long-range high school facilities planning sessions earlier this year. I was told that enrollment was not going to increase as much as earlier estimates and that the high school wouldn't need additional classroom space. Other than the replacing the pools and the boys locker room, the need for more spending has not been fully vetted. I asked the high school's principal why it was so important that there be one pool rather than two. (We chatted because he was kind enough to show me out of the building so I didn't get lost.) He said that kids should see each other, so that younger kids are inspired by older kids and aquatics teams, etc. I see how this would be nice. But is it necessary? Should we spend an extra $20 million+ and leave the high school and the community without a garage for 2 years to accomplish this? The board wants to be true to the motto "those things that are best". But what does "best" mean? Do we really want to teach our children that no expense should ever be spared to please a small group of students and their parents or impress other aquatics teams and the parents of those team members? I left the North Shore of Chicago for Oak park because I wanted to escape that kind of thinking.

Steve Shorney  

Posted: August 2nd, 2016 7:44 PM

Lots more to come on this issue! OPRF is the foundation on which our community is built regardless of whether we or our family members ever attended or plan to attend. As an '86 grad I am encouraged to see the board looking at history and to the future while grappling with the current and important financing issues of upgrading our school. This community is admired far and wide for its history, quality of life and vision. Let's build on that!

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