District will not seek referendum for pool project

October 15, 2015

The Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 Board of Education has approved contracts and a funding structure for construction of the new swimming pool and aquatics center that has been under discussion for the last two years.

Legat Architects has been hired to design the two-story, 49,800-square-foot aquatic center on the site of what currently is a parking garage at the corner of Lake Street and Scoville Avenue. The garage will be removed, and the pool will be connected to the high school via a second-floor corridor. Henry Bros. Construction has been contracted to provide the construction management services, which include oversight of the project and hiring various subcontractors for specific aspects of the work. Total costs for the project are estimated to be $37.5 million.

The board also approved a resolution to fund the project with up to $20 million from available fund balances plus non-referendum bonds in an amount of up to $17.5 million. The impact for the owner of a $400,000 home will be an additional $76 per year in property taxes.

It should be noted that the district has cut property taxes by a total of $28 million over the past three years. With the compounding effect of annual tax levies, this has created an additional $44 million in tax savings for property owners over a 10-year period. Even with the impact of the pool project factored in, the average homeowner still will experience an overall tax savings of $2,500, $1,000 of which has already been received.

At 90 years old, the high school’s two current pools have exceeded and exhausted their useful life. A competition pool typically has a life span of 40-50 years, based on deterioration of the pool shell and infrastructure. The OPRF pools suffer from a host of serious issues, including deteriorating structural support, narrow pool decks that don’t meet current safety codes, a non-code compliant and therefore unusable diving well, headroom clearance shortfalls, and poor air quality. Both pools are at real risk of developing issues that would render them permanently inoperable.

Renovating the existing pools would cost $19 million. However, after renovation, the pools would be significantly smaller than they are now. Each pool would lose a lane in order to meet current safety codes—and pool capacity already is inadequate. The board’s decision to build a single 50-meter pool was informed by several years of research and a detailed study conducted last fall by a special board committee. The 17-member committee included District 200 board members, administrators, and faculty, as well as nine community members.

Currently, per an intergovernmental agreement with the Village of Oak Park, the village owns the garage on the site of the new pool, while the district owns the land on which it is built. The total estimated costs include purchasing the garage from the village. The aquatic center structure will not include parking. The district is working closely with the village of Oak Park on a parking plan and anticipates having that completed in the next few months. Construction of the pool is planned to begin in summer 2016, with completion in time for the 2018-2019 school year.

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