Cost concerns have Elmhurst Park District revising, reducing Vision 2020 plans

  • Elmhurst Park District Executive Director Jim Rogers says the district is revising its Vision 2020 capital improvement plan to reduce projected costs before a possible November referendum question.

    Elmhurst Park District Executive Director Jim Rogers says the district is revising its Vision 2020 capital improvement plan to reduce projected costs before a possible November referendum question. Daily Herald file photo

 
By Julia Locanto
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 1/29/2020 9:37 AM

Elmhurst Park District is refining it Vision 2020 capital improvement plan before presenting it to focus groups this spring for feedback.

The district originally hoped to ask voters in March to approve a $105.2 million referendum question to fund six major projects. But results of a community survey indicated residents felt the plan was too expensive, forcing the park board to look for ways to lower the cost before considering a November referendum.

 

Toward that end, the board already has eliminated a proposed $72 million indoor sports facility and is considering cutting plans for a dog park.

It also is looking to reduce projected costs for improving park maintenance by roughly 50%.

Executive Director Jim Rogers stressed this week that the district will seek alternate funding sources for any projects cut from the fall referendum proposal.

The original Vision 2020 proposal called for an indoor sports center, a new adult center, a dog park, the expansion of Wagner Community Center, land acquisition and improved park maintenance.

The board plans to meet with focus groups in March with the goal of settling on final refinements by March 23 and deciding which projects will go to referendum by Aug. 17.

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If the $1.7 million dog park project is not included in the referendum, it will not be completed until the district's debt capacity increases.

The district has a $14.9 million non-referendum debt limit and $13.3 million in outstanding debt. Rogers said there will be a debt capacity increase in 2023 and 2026.

In addition to removing some projects from the referendum proposal, the board is considering reducing the scope of the remaining projects -- beginning with park maintenance.

Survey respondents ranked improving park maintenance as the most important thing among all the Vision 2020 proposals.

"It was heartening to see that even though the results weren't what we wanted, we know this is something we have heard consistently from the community," Rogers said.

Park maintenance and staff currently have a C+ rating from independent park assessments.

The board initially planned to achieve an A level by hiring 16 full-time employees. But Director of Parks Dan Payne this week suggested reaching a B level by hiring seven people.

Another consideration in improving park maintenance is building a maintenance facility smaller than originally planned without including it in the referendum.

The park board will consider proposals for the expansion of the Wagner Community Center, the new adult center and acquisition of more open space at its Feb. 10 meeting.

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