Public Watchdog.org

Another Year Too Many For Oakton Pool

04.09.10

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.

10 comments so far

Count me in and one of my kids will be going to camp this summer. What I do not understand is you always go half way on this issue. You pick one piece and you jump on it like a wild dog and yet you ignore the rest. It is like all these people who talk about “only necessities” when talking about community groups and yet say nothing about the PD. If you were true to your convictions you would be calling for completely getting rid of the taxes we all pay to support the PD every year (3-4%). To say that this is just related to camps or Oakten pool is crap. Get rid of all public funding and make it pay as you go period. Increase fees for ballfields, health club, ALL pools, not just Oakten. Can you imagine if all that tac money went toward flooding, or police…….etc….etc. But not a person seems to be saying that.

Why doesn’t the PRPD try setting up an intergovernmental agreement with the Des Plaines PD to use Mystic Waters for their campers? It would be cheaper to pay a fee to DP (with that fee tacked on to the camp registration) as opposed to operating a pool at loss. Local govt’s need to learn to work together more, even if that means working with units of govt. from other municipalities.

Anon @ 7:06: Just to make sure I understand your statement, you are advocating doing away with the Park District, or at the very least making everything the Park District offers “pay as you go.” Is that right?

Anon @ 9:10:

A few summers ago when the Park District had a number of problems at each/every pool in town, Des Plaines and Niles allowed Park Ridge residents to use their Park Ridge pool passes at the pools in Des Plaines and Niles until the problems here got fixed. Mystic Waters was not a part of that arrangement because that pool is already crowded with DP campers, DP swimmers, and swimmers from other towns (including ours) that pay the non-resident rate to swim there.

Working together is a good idea, and the two Park Districts have discussed working together on other ideas (DP has Golf Courses, we have an ice rink), but it wouldn’t likely work for Mystic Waters specifically.

Kaiser:

I do not think advocating is the correct word. I am questioning how or why one would go half way. If one chooses to look at a piece of the pie, in this case the pool and the campers, as a babysitting service that should not be piled on the tax payer, why not look at the entire Park District in the same way??? The reality is that just as the pool would not survive without the tax payer so it is with the entire PD.

anon on 04.09.10 10:17 am,

You are obviously a lunatic if you can’t see the difference between basic Park District green space and the entertainment programs being provided and subsidized.

anon on 04.09.10 7:06 am (and 10:17 am?):

From the bellowing it sounds like somebody’s ox just got gored. Are you one of those semi-freeloaders who takes advantage of all that taxpayer-subsidized summertime child-care the PRRPD provides under the “camps” designation?

The reason “not a person seems to be saying” what you’re saying is that what you’re saying is just plain goofy!

There is no basis for even attempting to compare private organizations like the community groups (the creation and funding of which Park Ridge residents never got to vote on) to a public body like the Park District that was created by the voters and is lawfully entitled to funding via taxes.

Once you’ve shown that you understand that difference, let us know and we’ll give you another concept of local government to mull over.

It is now time to start charging Park Ridge Baseball, Soccer and Football more than the measely amount they pay to the PRPD for the maintenance of the fields they monopolize during the useable season. These three organizations pay no more that $10 per participant to use the fields yet the PRPD spents millions (last figure I was provided with was $3,000,000) to maintain them. Since the PR Baseball, Soccer and Football organizations are not part of the PRPD then they should be paying their fair share of the cost to maintain the fields that they use.

Anonymous on 04.09.10 1:23 pm:

You are wrong when you write that the “PR Baseball, Soccer and Football organizations are not part of the PRPD.” They are “affiliates” of the Park District and subject to District oversight and controls, which the District exercises to varying degrees.

We agree, however, with the concept of the District charging the participants of those programs the cost of maintaining the fields (and the Oakton ice, for the hockey affiliate) in proportion to their exclusive or preferred usage; and we believe such charges should be extended to all of the District’s affiliates who get exclusive or preferential use of District facilities.

Yes the soccer, football, hockey and baseball organizations are “affiliates” of the PRPD. All that requires them to do is provide the PRPD with a copy of the Form 990 they file with the IRS. Given how long the board has been in place at the baseball “affiliate” for example (some since 1979)-I doubt the everchanging faces on the PRPD board would have any luck in placing “controls” on the people who run PR baseball. The fee baseball et al pay to use the fields has not changed in YEARS-while the cost to maintain the fields has gone up significantly during this period. I suspect the PRPD board would have the same problem placing “controls” on soccer and hockey (which is has a significant number of non Park Ridge skaters) and football as well.

So if you are going to assign costs to the groups who use a PRPD facility the most-don’t stop at the Oakton Pool-apply it to all the programs offered or affiliated with the park district.



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