Not everyone ready to jump into Park Ridge pool plan
Updated: November 26, 2012 7:21PM
PARK RIDGE — Park Ridge Recreation and Park District officials eager to move forward with revamping the aging Centennial Pool are ensuring residents have a chance to sound off on the matter.
Feedback from the public, however, has not all been positive as some residents worry about the consequences of installing an expensive, water-park-like facility in their backyards.
Two dozen residents attended the Park District Board’s Nov. 15 meeting, during which officials delayed voting until at least December on a $7.1 million proposal to rebuild the outdoor aquatic center at Centennial, 100 S. Western Ave., in order to solicit additional input.
Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle said the Park District could no longer postpone work on its largest pool. Analyses from outside consultants in 2005 and 2011 showed the nearly six-decade-old lap pool and combination pool at Centennial have major damage. Gutters and piping have deteriorated and steel pool shells show stress fractures.
“The pools are failing,” Mountcastle said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Plans to reconstruct Centennial involve an overall enhancement of the site, such as the addition of expanded parking, shade structures and landscaping, a concession deck and a walking path.
New pool amenities would include a leisure pool with zero-depth entry; two slides; water games in a three-lane pool area; and a six-lane, 25-yard competition pool.
The number of patrons allowed simultaneously into the aquatic center would also be increased.
Some residents criticized the Park District for springing the proposal on them late in the game. Park Ridge resident Susan Rogowski told officials the Park District has enough on its plate without the Centennial project, such as its plans to purchase and develop the former Park Ridge Youth Campus property if a 2013 referendum is passed.
Mountcastle contended the aquatic center had been an issue since the 1990s and the Park District Board has been planning the proposed 2013–2014 project for the past five months.
Park Ridge resident Robert Trizna, a former member of the Park Board, said the Park District should first reconsider its characterization of the community pool as an investment.
“Nobody wants to buy these things,” he said. “They’re assets to the community in that they provide an amenity, but they don’t provide an intrinsic value.”
Voters overwhelmingly said “no” before to an enhanced swimming facility, Trizna said, and should be allowed to weigh in again by referendum.
“If you make this decision where you don’t consult members of this community that’s an abuse of power,” he said.
Park Board President Rick Biagi said while a non-binding referendum is an option, the Park District has and is already doing its due diligence to gauge how residents feel, including issuing a community-wide survey in 2011 that found modernizing Centennial to be a high priority.
“I appreciate their comments and understand their concerns,” Biagi said. “But my fear is we need to do something soon.”