Aquatic center would not meet LP’s needs

After a failed referendum last April for the proposed swimming facility, now known as the “Indoor Aquatic Center”, Lake Park High School wound up trying again.

The school and the community had plans to build a $9.1 million, 23,500 sq. ft indoor swimming pool facility at East Campus. This time around, LP angled for a larger facility, up from previous plans for 18,000 sq. ft. The school only had $600,000 of its own financing, leaving the other $8.5 million to be funded by local taxpayers in the form a hefty tax increase for residents in the Roselle, Itasca, Medinah and Bloomingdale area. The $9.1 million does not include the additional $390,000 annual maintenance costs. As a result, there was debate in the community over whether the cost was worth it.

Last week, the referendum failed by 57 percent, leaving Lake Park pool-less yet.

With a base cost of $9.1 million, plus another $390,000 each year for maintenance costs, and another couple thousand per year for supplies such as chlorine and other chemicals, the issue was whether the cost outweighed the benefits.

Lake Park stated that this project had a “small financial impact” on the community, and would only increase taxes by about $25 each year for a home valued at $200,000. While true, they did, however, fail to take into consideration that most of the houses in the Roselle, Itasca and Bloomingdale area are valued closer to $300 to $400 thousand. This use of taxpayer money will cost these homeowners nearly $40 in tax increases per year.

Homes with even higher values could have expected property tax increases rising up to as much as $100 to $150 per year.

The Lake Park Boy’s and Girl’s Swim & Dive Teams have supported the pool efforts by claiming that it is a hassle to use other nearby high school pools during practice and meets. However, it also important to note that the LP Swim & Dive Teams have been extremely successful in the recent years, making it to state each year. The absence of a nearby indoor pool has absolutely no effect on their performance.

The Lake Park Swim & Dive Team pointed out that it is extremely costly and time-consuming to continue bussing and transporting members to other nearby high schools such as Hoffman Estates and Streamwood for practice and meets.

However, in the long term, the cost of transporting LP Swim & Dive members is relatively small compared to the whopping $10 million tied up in construction and maintenance of the pool.

Pool supporters claimed that the indoor aquatic facility would be a valuable asset providing an endless number of benefits to the surrounding community. An obvious benefit is an indoor swimming facility to be enjoyed not only by the students and swim teams, but also by the community as well.

Still, it also must be noted that there are numerous existing swimming pools, both indoor and outdoor, available nearby for community use. The Kemmerling Pool, for example, owned and operated by the Roselle Park District, has been accommodating thousands of swimmers in the Roselle area for years. The Itasca Waterpark, located just minutes from East Campus, also provides a swimming pool for local residents. These existing community pools can satisfy the community’s need.

From basic swimming lessons for children to water polo, these activities are offered at other nearby swimming pool facilities and fitness centers. Lifetime Fitness, Kemmerling Pool and Itasca Waterpark are just a few of the many nearby aquatic facilities that offer the same benefits and incentives pointed out by supporters of the Lake Park Aquatic Center.

Then there was the supposed educational benefit. Supporters said the facility would be available to “students during physical education classes” and would foster a “curriculum that will provide elective course options for life guarding-career readiness and CPR/AED, water aerobics, snorkeling and water polo.”

These new PE class electives sound enticing to swimmers and non-swimmers alike; however, given the wide variety of PE classes and electives currently available to students, such as Team Activities, Strength Training and Off-Campus activities, Lake Park is already satisfying the state’s PE requirements.

Students who support the pool efforts argue that an indoor swimming pool is a necessity and a valuable asset in a high school building. Still, there’s a case to be made that more effort and funding needs to be implemented for academic-related areas, such as classrooms and technology. In a world of rapidly changing technology and innovation, academics should be of higher priority.

In the local area, there is an unfortunate number of foreclosed homes, and there are many households struggling to pay expenses. Homeowners did not need a tax increase to exacerbate the effects of the difficult economic times.

In DuPage County, nearly 74 percent of a homeowner’s property tax goes directly towards funding local schools. That’s 74 percent of  hard-earned money coming from hard-working citizens.

The focus now needs to be shifted from the pool to helping and supporting these families who are struggling financially.