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Our View: Fast-track Hopkins Pool project

Published: Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Public officials’ discussions on renovating Hopkins Pool are in danger of becoming circular and repetitive.

DeKalb Park District’s plans to replace the 39-year-old pool with a smaller-capacity pool within the current footprint were all but abandoned after three new members were elected to the five-member board this spring. Leaders had been planning to borrow $5 million for the pool and locker-room upgrades and then pay off the loan without raising taxes.

It’s admirable for the new commissioners – Per Faivre, Keith Nyquist, and Don Irving – to study the issue, especially since it played a role in their election.

It’s also admirable to encourage public participation in the decision-making process.

But many of the points made at a two-hour workshop DeKalb commissioners had last month seem obvious: Building a new pool in a new location would be expensive, especially as the district will be paying off bonds for the Sports and Recreation Center until 2019. Repairing the existing pool could reveal unexpected problems with the pipes that lead into the pool and amount to throwing good money at a jalopy.

Moreover, the current facility does not fully comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and commissioners must have a plan in place by March 2015 to become compliant.

Discussing partnerships between the Sycamore and DeKalb park districts also seems admirable but could easily become a planning nightmare: How would the cost of the new facility be divided? How would maintenance costs be shared? Would both boards have to sign off on the plans? Where would it be located?

The fact that DeKalb commissioners did not have time to discuss potential collaborations at its two-hour workshop July 18 highlights how long that planning process could take. Drawn-out discussions between two elected bodies might be imprudent given the financial constraints of both districts – and their taxpayers.

DeKalb’s commissioners should eye their predecessors’ emphasis on replacing the pool within the existing footprint.

They should seek public suggestions for tweaking the existing plan so the project can move along economically and efficiently.

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