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Local Column

Olson: Security Properties should help with pool effort

Lifeguard Logan Buhk keeps a watch on swimmers at Hopkins Park pool in DeKalb in 2018.
Lifeguard Logan Buhk keeps a watch on swimmers at Hopkins Park pool in DeKalb in 2018.

The owners of DeKalb County’s largest subsidized housing complex should help the DeKalb Park District with its pool problem.

Maybe residents of DeKalb should send them an email to let them know we could use their financial help. After all, our leaders did them a good turn a few years ago – maybe it’s time they pay it forward.

DeKalbers have had a public pool in town at least since 1923, when the newly formed DeKalb Rotary Club helped build one at what now is called Lions Park.

The current pool at Hopkins Park opened in 1975, a year after voters approved a property tax increase referendum (they also rejected building an indoor ice arena, which is why you now have to drive all the way to Rockford or Batavia to skate.).

A recent Park District survey indicated that the pool was among the most-used amenities that it offers.

In 2018, the district sold more than 1,500 season passes, a 6.5% increase over 2017. Attendance was up 12%, with 16,213 single-day admission passes.

But the pool also is the amenity with which people expressed the most dissatisfaction.

It leaks.

They use chlorine gas to keep it clean.

It’s just plain old.

Building a pool, especially one large enough to accommodate people in a city the size of DeKalb, costs millions. A plan that would have rebuilt a smaller pool in place of the existing pool was estimated to cost $5 million – but was abandoned. The Park District doesn’t have millions of dollars, and homeowners don’t want to – can’t afford to – pay more in property taxes.

Which is where Security Properties, the Seattle-based company that acquired University Village a few years ago with help from the DeKalb City Council, should step in and help.

Security Properties came to town with a plan to buy the complex and rent all of the more than 530 homes in it to people receiving government housing assistance.

The City Council helped make it happen in 2015, voting against the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission to allow the complex at 722 N. Annie Glidden Road to be rebuilt exactly as it is even if it were destroyed.

This allowed Security Properties, based 2,000 miles from DeKalb, to become one of the city’s largest landlords and operator of one of the largest public housing complexes for miles.

It has invested millions in the complex, and has agreed to contribute to services that help address community needs.

But it can do more for the community, and it should, as a good corporate citizen. The people of DeKalb, particularly those who live in rental communities, want and need a new pool.

Maybe in exchange for a significant contribution, residents of University Village could receive discounts on pool passes, or other considerations.

On the company’s website, SecurityProperties.com/philanthropy, the company says it, “Partners with local organizations that work to enhance the well-being of the communities we serve.”

On that same web page, there’s a section about “acquisition impact grants,” and a field for contacting the company.

Maybe if the company heard from a lot of DeKalb residents about the need for a new pool in the city, one which no doubt would be used by residents of University Village, it would be persuaded to make an investment in DeKalb.

After all, it’s an important stakeholder here, even if its executives are 2,000 miles away.

• Eric Olson is general manager of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 2257, email eolson@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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