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Government Local

Sycamore parks considering referendum

Proposal would help fund district’s Vision 2020 projects

SYCAMORE – Sycamore Park District commissioners likely will vote in a month or two on pursuing a referendum to fund their Vision 2020 plan, which includes creating new amenities such as a community center.

Voters could be asked to approve a property tax rate increase of 18 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value in order to issue $8 million in bonds. The funds would be used for projects including a zero-depth aquatic play area for children, a dog park, and a 22,400-square-foot community center with basketball courts, a running track, exercise area and programming space.

Funding also would be sought from private donors, park officials say.

“We think it’s do-able,” park board member Ann Tucker said, “and we think it’s what this community needs.”

An 18-cent tax rate increase would add about $90 a year, or $7.50 a month, to the tax bill of the owner of a $154,000 home who claims the homestead exemption. The average Sycamore home is assessed at about $154,000, park officials said.

A survey of park district residents indicated that many would be willing to pay $10 more a month for amenities in the plan, park officials said, and this proposal would meet that price point for many residents.

Overall, commissioners hope to fund about two-thirds of the project costs with increased tax revenue and rely on community donations for the final third. When it comes to adding two to three miles of trails to connect existing trails, only 20 percent of the $2.3 million cost would come from local sources; the rest would come from state grants.

The park district recently purchased 25 acres of land across from the sports complex on Airport Road where they expect to house future facilities. Unlike most of the district’s other property, it is not within a floodplain, giving the district a freer hand in what it can build there.

The district already has applied for a state grant to fund building the community center, which will include a gym, fitness space, multipurpose rooms and administration space, Park District
Executive Director Dan Gibble said.

The community center, which would cost an estimated $6.2 to $6.5 million, could also include space for adult sports and space for teenagers, seniors and preschool-aged fitness classes, and would alleviate the space crunch that many park programs currently have.

The park district rents the building on North Fair Street that houses its current community center, and many residents don’t even know where it is, said Michelle Schulz, park board vice president.

The Vision 2020 plan also includes replacing the 26-year-old golf course irrigation system, which will cost about $1.2 million.

Another hot topic in the Vision 2020 plan is Sycamore’s swimming pool, which is located in a flood plain and is about 30 years old. The plan doesn’t include upgrading or replacing the pool within the next six years.

Rather, commissioners said they will keep the pool open so long as it is fiscally responsible. Board members said they are hoping the pool will last another 10 years, but acknowledged they might have to close it if a large repair seems too expensive for the aging facility. They are open to addressing the pool after 2020 and trying to work with DeKalb park commissioners on a potential joint pool.

With the pool being in a floodplain, it can not be expanded or enlarged, park officials said. Plus, the proposed splash pad has a longer season of being open than a pool, Schulz said.

Commissioner Bill Kroeger said this would be the first time in the district’s 91-year history that it would receive money from a referendum.

“We’d really want everyone to think what kind of investment [return] they’re going to get,” Kroeger said.

Park board President Ted Strack agreed.

“This is about investing in our community,” Strack said, “and making it better for everybody.”

Vision 2020 projects

• Adding two to three miles of trails

Estimated cost: $2.3 million

• Community center

Estimated cost: $6.2 million

• Golf course irrigation

Estimated cost: $1.2 million

• Splash pad

Estimated cost: $800,000

• Dog park

Estimated cost: $120,000

Source: Sycamore Park District Vision 2020 Plan

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