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Local

Residents speak out about pool's price tag, priorities

DeKALB – Though most agreed that a new pool would be nice, residents who attended a special DeKalb Park District meeting on Wednesday night overwhelmingly spoke out that it is unaffordable.

Most of the 19 people who commented on the park district’s plan to tear down the old Hopkins Pool and build a new one for $15 million opposed having taxpayers pay for it. About 40 people attended the meeting that was held at Hopkins Park Community Center.

The park district is asking voters to consider a $15 million referendum on the Feb. 2 ballot to purchase bonds for the project.

“I am absolutely for parks and recreation,” said Jeff Hallgren. “My feeling on the subject is it’s terrible timing.”

Hallgren and others testified to how bad the timing is, whether it be rising taxes, sliding home values or getting laid off.

According to finance projections, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay an estimated $45.71 per year, based on a 25-year maturity schedule, if the referendum passes. The owner of a $200,000 home would pay an estimated $91.43 per year, or $7.62 a month.

This is based on conservative growth projections of property values and could be lower if the district is approved for Build America Bonds, a federal stimulus program with low interest rates.

New pool amenities would include a lazy river, a zero-depth leisure pool entry, water slides and an area for young children.

The pool, parking lot and locker rooms would be on about 6 acres of land just north of the current facility, where tennis courts currently stand.

“When I looked at the plans for this, it looks like we’re building a water park, not a swimming pool,” said DeKalb resident Vince McMahon, adding that he’d support a natatorium that could function as both an indoor and outdoor pool.

Though several people commended the plans, they were hesitant to fund what they considered a want versus a need.

“I don’t think many members of this community are interested in being trendy,” said Patti Perkins. “This is pretty much a meat and potatoes community.”

“It’s OK to not have a Lexus,” she added.

Park district officials point to the pool’s aging infrastructure and the cost of maintenance as to why the pool should be replaced rather than repaired.

Hopkins Pool is 35 years old, and outdoor pools generally last 30-40 years, said Cindy Capek, the park district’s executive director. A 2008 audit found a number of code violations and ultimately led to a recommendation to replace the pool.

Architects estimated a laundry list of repairs would cost $5 million, “but you would have the same footprint, the same facility” at the end of that cost, Capek said.

At least two people want that same footprint: Concerns over lost green space and mature trees being cut down for the new development were heard during the meeting. Capek said the location was chosen because it has better, safer access from Dresser Road than its current location.

Supporters of the referendum believe DeKalb should follow the trends of other communities to stay attractive and competitive.

“We don’t need a pool in DeKalb; we need an aquatic center,” said Tom Besinger. “That is the trend: a nice park with a lot of amenities that would serve my 2-year-old or my wife or myself if we want to attend.”

Aside from the lazy river, Jessica Williams noted that the other amenities are common at community pools built within the last decade. While a few speakers urged the park district to wait a few years for the economy to turn around, Williams advised not to stall the project.

“The pool will then be 45 years old and literally falling apart and not usable,” she said. “It will become a giant eyesore here in town rather than having something nice and usable.”

Stephen Karlson suggested “a simpler project,” scaling back the original design but having it built soon to avoid years of costly repairs to the current pool.

If the referendum passes, construction will begin in 2011 and the pool will be completed for the 2012 summer season.

“Whether it’s a Cadillac plan for a Chevy community, you have to decide that on Feb. 2,” said Rich Rice, who said he swims at Hopkins daily during its open season. “The message I’m hearing from people tonight is you want aquatics and you’ve got some options there.”

Plan highlights

• Hopkins Park Aquatic Center was built in 1974 and replaced the original 1936 pool.

• Annual cost for the owner of a $200,000 home is estimated to be $91.43.

• If the referendum passes, construction will begin in 2011 and the pool will open for the 2012 summer season.

• The $15 million cost includes demolition of the old pool, construction of a new pool, parking lots, support buildings and new tennis and basketball courts. The existing community center, administrative offices and parking lots will remain.

• For more information, visit www.dekalbparkdistrict.com.

Vote '10: Daily Chronicle's election coverage
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