Another Year Too Many For Oakton Pool


A page one story in this week’s Park Ridge Journal asks: “Will This Be Last Year For Oakton Pool?”

More than two years ago, in our post titled “The Old Oakton Bucket” (10/16/07), we called for that year to be the “last year” for Oakton.  We criticized the Park Board and Staff for not having the gumption to close it down, or the ability to come up with any ideas for operating that pool in a way that eliminated, or at least reduced, the $75,000 operating loss it was booking back then.

The Journal story reports that last year the District’s five pools (including the indoor “lap” pool at the Community Center which was built both too short and too narrow to even host a swim meet) lost more than $135,000, with Oakton alone accounting for $95,000 of that unhappy total. 

Oakton’s 2009 attendance [pdf] was only about 17% higher than South Park’s wading/”baby” pool – despite being the District’s only Olympic-sized lap pool, with a capacity more than 6 times that of South Park’s.

Fortunately, new Park District director Ray Ochromowicz appears to understand that the taxpayers shouldn’t have to swallow $95K of red ink annually just to cater to the nostalgia of a relative handful of Oakton/swimming fanatics.  He noted that “[t]here is enough water in Park Ridge to make up for the loss [of Oakton]” – and we don’t think he was referring to our flooding problems.

Better yet, the Journal article reports that “most…[Park District commissioners] said they were ready to make a final decision on the pool’s future soon.”  Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like they will have the guts to turn “soon” into 2010, so District taxpayers can expect to see another $95K disappear down the drain.

But old attitudes and inertia die hard, which is why the sound of push-back was heard from Commissioners Mary Wynn Ryan and David [identified as “Steve” in the Journal story] Herman, in the guise of concern about where the District’s summer campers will swim if Oakton doesn’t open this year.

Deep-six the hand-wringing, Commissioners.  If you won’t close Oakton because of the campers, the simple solution is to roll all the costs of keeping Oakton open another summer into the cost of the camps.  After all, the District brags about the “fantastic price” of those camps, which range “from $4.28 per hour to $6.08 per hour.” 

So tacking enough extra onto those hourly rates to cover the entire cost of giving all those campers one more chance at the Oakton experience might be the revenue-generating idea that the District just couldn’t quite come up with on its own. 

That way, at least the taxpayers wouldn’t get stuck subsidizing another summer of other people’s child care.