Oakton Pool Dodges Bullet Once Again


About 40 fans of Oakton Pool won a stay of execution for that facility last evening: they persuaded Park Commissioners Richard Brandt, David Herman, Stephen Vile and Mary Wynn Ryan to reject Director Ray Ochromowicz’s recommendation to close Oakton after the current season. 

Their winning argument was an interesting amalgam of emotion, nostalgia  and self-interest, with a marked aversion (if not outright hostility) to facts, figures and dollars.  But pleading the case for a decrepit and overlooked facility that has lost an average of $85,000 in each of the past three pool seasons – more than the other three outdoor pools combined – leaves few other options. 

Two positive things may have come out of that meeting, however, assuming those Oakton Pool Fans (“OPF”s) and the Park Board take full advantage of the opportunity presented. 

First and foremost, the OPFs need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.  They need to come up with realistic ideas either for making Oakton Pool financially solvent “as is,” or for selling the District’s voters on a replacement facility.  And they should do it NOW…in time to turn those ideas into one or more referendum questions that can be put on the November ballot, thereby giving the Park Board some community-wide input in time to make an informed decision on whether to re-open Oakton for the 2011 season. 

In that same vein, if the Park Board is going to keep Oakton open, it should create a commission comprised of OPFs and entrust it with the management of Oakton Pool for next season.  Give it authority (albeit with Staff and Board oversight) for the planning, programming and executive-level management so that it can implement all those magic-bullet ideas that were flowing last night for getting more people to Oakton, such as more/better advertising, better programming, better maintenance, better swimming instruction, strategic partnerships with other swim clubs, corporate sponsorships, etc. 

Why?  Because the Park District has shown itself to be incapable of managing Oakton any better than what we’ve seen over the past three years.  If the OPFs can’t do a better job, the conclusion would become virtually inescapable that Ochromowicz, Board President Jim O’Brien, and Commissioners Rick Biagi and Marty Maloney are right: Oakton’s day in the sun has come and gone. 

To their credit, Biagi, Maloney and O’Brien tempered their votes for closing Oakton with support for putting one or more Oakton referendum questions on the November ballot by Board action rather than requiring citizens to run a petition drive…so long as the OPFs can come up with meaningful ones.  Hopefully, at least one more commissioner will sign onto that idea and make it a reality. 

Several commissioners noted that last night’s turnout was the biggest in the history of the Oakton Pool drama that has been ongoing since the diving well imploded back in 2005.  But one night does not a plan, a program, or a strategy make.  

Are the OPFs up to the challenge, or are they simply buying time with the taxpayers’ money?

1 comment so far

You forgot to mention:

If something mechanical or structural happens to the Oakton pool,that is financially costly to fix, the Oakton pool will no longer exist.

You also forgot to mention that the PArk District has other another business that it subsidies at more than 3 times the cost of running the Oakton pool (i.e. the Senior Center)

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Yes, we did: Culpa nostra.  

Oakton is on a DNR order, and that was communicated to the assembled multitude Thursday night on more than one occasion. 

We didn’t mention the Senior Center because we were writing about pools.  But you are right, which is why we have consistently regarded the Senior Center as an egregious expenditure of tax dollars – both by the Park District and by the City of Park Ridge, which also subsidizes it for no apparent reason other than (a) it has regularly done so, and (b) the aldermen are shamelessly pandering to the people who vote in high percentages.