Supporters urge approval of Park Ridge’s Centennial Pool project
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:49AM
PARK RIDGE — Over 100 residents turned out to the Park Ridge Senior Center last week for a chance to offer input on the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District’s proposal to replace Centennial Park’s two lap pools with new aquatic facilities.
Comments from the public during the Dec. 6 meeting were largely supportive of the proposed Centennial Pool improvements which are estimated to cost $7.1 million and be paid for through a non-referendum bond issue. A number of speakers indicated that they had grown up swimming at Centennial.
Another public hearing on the pool plan is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the South Park Recreation Center, 833 Talcott Rd.
“We definitely need to do something. We already let one pool go in this town and that was a shame,” said resident Ed Enright.
But Enright also had concerns about whether the proposed amenities — including two new lap pools and a wading/leisure pool with water slides and play features — would change the “feeling of going to the pool” and that other Park District infrastructure projects might be put off due to the expense.
Some citizens expressed opinions that other nearby suburbs — Des Plaines, Niles and Glenview in particular — all have better pools than Park Ridge has and that failing to invest in the city’s parks and pools will only hurt property values and draw home buyers away from Park Ridge.
“We need to give our residents a comparable facility to those communities,” said Kris Purtell, adding that the proposed Centennial design “meets the needs of our residents.”
“I would rather stay in our community than give my money to another community and help their economy,” said mother Cheri Hanley who found herself visiting Mystic Waters in Des Plaines last summer due to crowding at Centennial.
Another resident described Centennial as “the heart of our social center.”
But not everyone who attended the hearing — the second in a series of meetings to obtain public feedback — was ready to back the project.
Neighbor Ed Oken expressed concerns about the removal of 10 trees on the property to accommodate additional parking while resident Bob Mau questioned spending $7.1 million for new pools that would be only be used a little over three months each year. Mau said he would be in favor of replacing Centennial’s two lap pools without adding new amenities or changing the design since this is estimated to cost about $3 million less.
“That makes more sense to me,” Mau said.
Resident Steve Schildwachter also expressed concerns about cost and agreed with Mau that the Park District should consider repair or replacement of the pools instead.
Park Board Commissioners Mary Wynn Ryan, Richard Brandt, Steven Vile and Rick Biagi all indicated that they support the project. But Commissioner Mel Thillens said the Park District should replace its facilities without asking taxpayers for more money to pay for them.
If the Park Board approves the Centennial project the plan is to keep its annual tax levy at the same rate it has been in past years. The levy has already been increased in order to pay down other debt service and issuing new bonds for Centennial will just extend the debt service payments, officials said.