$600,000 Here, $600,000 There, Pretty Soon You’re Talking Real Money


It’s no secret that we here at PW consider the current administration at the Park Ridge Recreation and Park District something decidedly south of a paragon of local governmental virtue.

So it probably should have come as no surprise to us to read in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate that the Park District’s new Centennial water park is now going to cost taxpayers nearly $600,000 more than the District was telling us last December, when the Park Board was passing the resolutions to green-light what was then billed as a $7.1 million project – without giving the taxpayers an opportunity to vote on it via an advisory referendum. (“Centennial Pool renovations will cost extra $600K for Park Ridge Park District,” August 12)

That’s because the parks and recreation “professionals” running the Park District know that you never put two park district funding referenda on the same ballot, or in consecutive elections – as the Park District could have done by putting the Centennial project on the November ballot and the Youth Campus project on the April ballot, if it didn’t want both of them on the April ballot – if you want to pass both of them.  When referendum questions are paired up in that way, the conventional wisdom is that the voters tend to pass the first and reject the second, or reject them both.

And being told “no” by the voting taxpayers is a capital offense to career government bureaucrats.

So Park District Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle and her staff, aided and abetted by a profligate and complicit Park Board, masterfully delayed consideration of the Centennial pool/water park project until months after the deadline for putting a referendum question on the November ballot, into the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season when most taxpayers customarily are distracted.  That way, the District could commit almost all of its non-referendum bonding power to the less-marketable project and save its best sales pitches for the more-marketable “legacy” Youth Campus Park referendum.

The bureaucratic reasoning was that, with the voters lacking any memory of recently having voted to issue $6.3 million of bonded debt for a $7.1 million Centennial water park, it would be much easier to convince them to vote for issuing $6.8 million of additional bonded debt for a $13.2 million Youth Campus project.

And the bureaucrats were right!

But the news of the $600,000 cost over-run for the water park just as ground was being broken has raised a few hackles from the thinking taxpayers who are realizing that they got conned even more than they originally thought.

We tend to derive perverse entertainment value from listening to the propaganda ministers of our various local governmental units try to spin performance dross into political gold.  And, according to the H-A story, Park District minister of disinformation Kathie Hahn didn’t disappoint – dismissing the original $7.1 million figure as “early on in the project” and then applying a layer of populist varnish to the $600,000 up-sell: “When we went to the public hearings and input meetings, we heard from the public about certain things they wanted at this park so we made our best attempt to include those items.”

Pretty slick, Ms. Hahn!  But exactly what “items” are you talking about?

As we understand it, the District had already cut the single most-wanted feature of the new water park (according to the half-baked resident “survey” provided by…wait for it…the designers of the new facility, Stantec Consulting) even before the Park Board approved the project: a lazy river connecting the various pools.  So we’re curious about what new “items” are being added to the project that would account for the additional $600K.

That’s not saying the information wasn’t communicated by the District in some fashion.  Park Board meetings aren’t covered nearly as diligently by the local press as are the meetings of the Park Ridge City Council, where “press row” is regularly filled by reporters from the H-A, the Park Ridge Journal, and the Chicago TribLocal.  And while Mayor Dave Schmidt and the Council members often engage in spirited debate over issues, the Park Board usually behaves like a rubber stamp for current Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle and her staff.

Since returning to the PRRPD after 8 years as Supt. of Recreation for the Des Plaines Park District,  Mountcastle’s agenda appears to be not unlike that of many high-level local government bureaucrats: spend money and pile up debt on facilities-as-monuments.  Those monuments earn them bragging rights at the various “professional association” networking/self-promotion conferences and conventions – like those of the Illinois Association of Park Districts (“IAPD”) and the National Recreation and Park Association (“NRPA”) – they regularly attend, usually on the taxpayers’ dime.

In fairness, up until now Mountcastle has been able to control costs and post some welcome surpluses, apparently by retaining the operating budget philosophy and strategy adopted by her predecessor, Ray Ochromowicz, during his relatively short tenure at the helm.  And from what we’ve seen and heard, maintenance and customer service continue to improve.

But whether the District can stay that course now that it’s saddled with servicing $13 million-plus of new long-term bonded debt remains to be seen.  If all those suspect revenue projections for the Centennial water park and the Youth Campus Park prove to be the kind of pie-in-the-sky that the revenue projections for the Uptown TIF turned out to be, the Park District and its taxpayers could be hurtin’ for certain in a few years when the surpluses and fund balances are depleted but the PTELL keeps the tax increases capped.

By that time, however, expect Mountcastle to have moved on to other, greener pastures on the strength of these two new resume enhancements, compliments of Park Ridge taxpayers.  And the Park Board members who rubber-stamped these projects with only one referendum instead of two will have become former public officials – just like city manager Tim Schuenke and his Council accomplices on the Uptown TIF were long gone by the time the financial chickens came home to roost on that project.

Meanwhile, however, the Park District is adding $600,000 of “switch” to the water park’s $7.1 million “bait” price, with barely a ripple of protest by our elected officials on the Park Board who are supposed to make sure that the taxpayers don’t get “had” by this kind of bureaucratic hi-jinks.

Next up: The Youth Campus Park.

Bidding starts at $13.2 million.

To read or post comments, click on title.

44 comments so far

The voters of this town are either stupid, apathetic, asleep or so rich that they don’t feel the consequences of spending. Either way it doesn’t bode well for democracy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We disagree. Better to let The People decide (even if you believe “wrongly”) on the Youth Campus Park than not at all, as with the new Centennial water park (and the Community Center 20 years ago).

The Youth Campus referendum won by almost 1,100 votes out of the approx. 9,000 cast (out of 24,000+ registered voters), with 989 votes of that victory margin provided by Maine Twp. precincts; and 517 votes of that margin coming from 3 “country club” area/Youth Campus precincts: 30, 43 and 88. Conversely, the 3 precincts in which it lost worst were 21, 36 and 60, but the margin of defeat from those 3 precincts was only 139 votes.

And let’s not forget the organized pro-YCP referendum effort and the $6,282 it spent on a campaign that had no organized opposition.

I agree that the people should decide, that is the essence of democracy. Using your numbers, 5600 people out of 24000 registered voters decided that the Youth Campus park was a good idea. I find it a little disheartening that after the water park was snuck past us, only 5600 people out of an adult population (including those not registered to vote) of approx 28500 decided the issue.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The turnout was pathetic but, unfortunately, apathy is part of democracy, too.

Was there a dollar limit which would have required the Park District to go to referendum on the swimmming pool?

Does this extra $600,000 come out of surplus or do they issue more debt?

I don’t understand how this gets paid for if it is above the initial budget. Other capital items get delayed or cancelled?

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s our understanding that the District’s non-referendum debt limit was approximately $8.8 million, so the District could not have done the Youth Campus Park project with non-referendum debt; AND the District had to shelve the “lazy river” component of the Centennial water park to get the number under the debt ceiling.

We understand the $600K will come out of surplus.

It’s just a question of how many balls they can keep in the air.

First of all, while I understand that there are some (including PD) who feel that the PD board should have taken the pool issue to referendum, the fact is they were not obligated to do so and they did not “sneak one past us”.

Second of all, Mayor Dave won re election with less than 5600 votes and the school folks (including a complete wack job) won with even less than that. Do you find that disheartening as well???

Boy, you must really be hard up for something to kvetch about if you’re taking on the pool renovation. And let’s face it, there is no government body, local or otherwise, on God’s (somehow still) green earth that would meet your celestial standards. So it’s kinda hard to get all worried about your disapproval; that’s a given. Anybody paying attention knows the recent and current Park Boards were/are a lot more vigilant and less complacent than you ever were on the Board about holding “the professionals” accountable. Nice try, though.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The way you prevaricate by calling the Centennial Pool REPLACEMENT a “pool renovation,” you could be the executive director of the Park District…or a Board member! We’re surprised you didn’t call the extra $600,000 a “minor adjustment.”

Our expectation from public officials is honesty, transparency and fiscal responsibility. If you consider those as “celestial standards,” then take a bow for being one of the reasons our Illinois and Crook County governments are as ethically and financially bankrupt as they are.

Just by steamrolling through the now $7.7 million Centennial water park project without a referendum, this Park Board and Staff have shown themselves to be less honest and fiscally responsible than any Park District administration since the one that built the half-baked, overpriced Community Center – also without a referendum – over 20 years ago.

Our expectation from public officials is honesty, transparency, competence and fiscal responsibility. If you consider those as “celestial standards,” then also consider yourself one of the reasons our Illinois and Crook County governments are as ethically and financially bankrupt as they are.

11:14 sounds like one of thsoe Park Board members who thinks they’re smarter than the residents but don’t want to risk being proved wrong by a referendum vote. By the time tne new water operations show its a money loser they’ll all be gone and dodging responsibility like the Council members you’ve written about for Uptown TIF, and we’ll be stuck with the bill.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re betting everybody sticks around until after the ribbon-cutting.

Has anyone been by Centennial lately ? People are horrified at the destruction of the park. It’s absoulutely insane. A functional highly used tree shaded playground gone. A beautiful tree filled area gone (for a new parking lot). A beautiful shaded picnic area gone. What’s even more insulting is the way the park district has promoted this destruction. On display in the reception area of the community center is a rendering of the new park. What once was the Centennial Pool Renovation, now is being called The Centennial Pool,Playground and Parking Lot Project. Talk about bait and switch. No wonder its $600,000 more.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And counting.

Friends of the Park:

Please!!!! I was at the pool yesterday and I missed all the horrified people. Actually, while not scientific, I heard more than a few people talking about how great is was going to be when completed.

Insulting??? Perhaps you were not listening. Are you claiming that you were not aware that the playground was going along with some trees??? Are you saying that you were not aware that the parking lot was going to be improved…..Thank god!!!!

If I am not mistaken, folks on your side of the aisle (VERY against the pool) used these facts during the actually debate on this issue. I understand that you do not like these facts but let’s not pretend that they were sprung on you.

Which leads me to my final point. The debate is over, the construction has started…..get over it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re right in one sad sense: “the debate is over” because a minority of taxpayers who are “users” of Centennial Pool were able to confine the process to the Park Board and Staff rather than extending the process to ALL the taxpayers, users and non-users alike, via referendum.

And all the non-users who let themselves get distracted by the holidays rather than show up at those December Park Board meetings or contact their Park Board members have themselves to blame.

Anon at 7:07 am-I share FTP outrage. The PRPD has nearly clear cut the land cutting down 100 year old trees to put in a waterpark-not a pool. And the reality is that aside from a about 90 new parking spaces, the only thing being added to the current 3 pools we have is a slide-a very big slide that the neighbors will have to look at for 365 days per year since the PRPD is apparently not going to spend the $20,000 to put up tree screening. Look at the layout and this will be confirmed-the lap pool is just being moved to a new location and the other pool essentially stays where it is. A $7,700,000 water slide. Yes the pools needed to be replaced-but for this? Nothing like fiscal irresponsibility.

A look at the layout also shows that what was once public access picnic grounds on the south side of the pool is now only accessible if you pay to go to the pool or have a pool pass.

Most people in PR had no idea this waterpark was even being voted on by the PRPD board. That is because the board purposely took this issue up during December when most of us are busy with the holidays. And the only reason that about 200 people even showed up at the December 2012 meeting at the Senior Center is because Rick Biagi sent out an email and put a letter on PR Patch that basically said unless the people of PR support the now $7,700,000 waterpark, there will be no pools at all at Centennial as the old pools are failing and will be torn out.

What also will likely occur on a going forward basis is that beside the Youth Campus-very little can be done as far as capital improvements in the future. The PRPD will simply not have the money. The PRPD is taking a total of $1,500,000 out of reserve at this point to pay for the rest of the waterpark that the bonds won’t cover. IS there any money left for anything else-even basic maintenance of the other roughly 140 acres the PRPD is supposed to be maintaining? How much of an overrun will occur at the Youth Campus which is estimated at twice the cost of the waterpark.

So yes construction has started with more overruns likely to come. Will they raise the cost of all PRPD programs to pay for this foolish project? But a “get over it” attitude like yours is precisely the kind that irresponsible public officials like in a voter. Some of us prefer to not forget and to hold those accountable for their shameful misuse of our money.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are convinced that the existing Centennial Pools need replacement, based on inspection reports of the stainless steel tanks since the Park District first went to referendum for replacing them with a water park back in 1995 (when the pools were first described as being at the end of their useful lives), and continuing to the most recent reports of leaks becoming more prevalent.

While the Park District was most definitely dishonest in delaying the real discussions of the development process until the holiday season, we wrote posts about it on Nov. 15 and 20, and Dec. 5, 13 and 19 – prior to the Park Board’s vote on it. And there were stories in the local newspapers as well. So anybody who wasn’t aware of this situation has only themselves to blame.

But you’re right about the “get over it” attitude being one that “irresponsible public officials like in a voter.”

Good lord. The users of centennial pool did not confine the process to anything. I am a “user of centennial pool. We love it as is and will love it when the new pool opens. I, along with most other users, did not do a damn thing to confine the process.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Of course you did, by not asking or arguing for the project going to an advisory or binding referendum – because you knew from the first “public hearing” that the Park Board was firmly in your corner for doing this project, irrespective of whether it was good for the whole community and tbe non-user majority of taxpayers.

Many people read this blog-but not everyone. And anything written in the papers by the likes of Jennifer Johnson was woefully negligent in providing the details. Who really has time to go to a PEPD meeting during the busiest time of the year? I realize that is no excuse but that is exactly why the PRPD board took this action during the holidays.

And Rick Biagi’s threatening correspondence went along way in adding to the white lies told to the taxpayers. For god sakes, a grown man cried at the December meeting because he thought if the waterpark was not built as the PRPD wanted then there would be no pool at all at Centennial.

And yes the pools needed to be replaced and that could have been done much more cost effectively than the waterpark the PRPD decided to put in-one that had been voted down at least 2 times before by the taxpayers. Now we will have a $7,700,000 waterpark-usable only about 90 days of the year with perfect weather-while the rest of the PRPD properties go to hell. Great leadership and decision making on the part of Gayle Mountcastle and the Rick Biagi led PRPD board.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mountcastle and the Board were simply dishonest in the way they handled the whole Centennial project, especially in not going to referendum in either November or April, and pushing the decision-making into the holiday season. And they were dishonest because the knew outdoor pools have a very narrow, but deep, consituency – and, therefore, were not going to let the taxpayers vote on this water park plan.

How come Anon08.18?

Anon at 7:07

You are mistaken,

I was fully aware of what was going to happen to both the playground and the parking lot. What is surprising is how unnecessary the destruction of Centennial was. The replacement of the two pools was absoulutely the right thing to do. They had long outlived their usefulness. That being said, the alternative presented to the taxpaying public was let’s build a new pool facility. Depending on who you spoke to, some called it a new updated facility, while others called it a water park. I was at the meeting when the question was asked why the board never considered replacing the two tanks as is. One could tell by the answer it was an alternative they never considered as they had no concrete information about the cost of that possibility. That being said, why would you tear down at taxpayer expense an existing fully functioning playground only to rebuild it at taxpayer expense in more undesirable location. Why would you destroy trees and grounds to build and accommodate a parking lot that was hardly ever completely filled. The pools could have easily been replaced in their existing footprint for a much smaller price tag than the existing $7 million + project.
7:07 you say “get over it, its a done deal” To that I say you are wrong. It may be a done deal now but the cost implications will be felt by you and other taxpayers well into the future.

EDITOR’S NOTE: They “never considered replacing the two tanks” because the aquatics “experts” say that conventional swimming pools (a/k/a lap pools) are dead: you need “zero depth” entry, sprays, water slides and other whiz-bang features to draw patrons.

Even this Board and Staff, along with the aquatics consultant, couldn’t begin to fabricate revenue v. expense numbers that could possibly justify replacing the current facility with the same kind of facility. Heck, the numbers they ginned up for the new waterpark were WAG-enough as it was.

And as has been pointed out before, the playground isn’t being constructed at another of the District’s parks – it was donated to Kids Around the World, which is (according to its website) “a faith-based 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping children and families who have been affected by war, poverty, illness, and natural disasters” from its home office in Rockford.

As for why the District destroyed mature trees: they were in the way of the new water park, silly!

PWD, Have you heard why the City Council meeting from 8/5 video will not play?
When the play button is pressed on You Tube it says “This Video Is Private”.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nope, but we just checked it and you’re right. Call City Hall or your alderman and ask.

Will do, thank you.

The August 5 video is up. YouTube changed its default upload settings. Thanks to Law Abiding Citizen for bringing it to our attention (via PW).

I hope very much that anon 8:18 and all of his/her ilk run for office and enjoy the absolute power and might of it all; the absolutely accurate foresight, the ability to hold advanced training in a variety of specialties that require licensing for public safety so as to flawlessly override any professional decisions, the ability to plot, scheme and conspire to mess up Christmas just to — horrors! — give another generation of Park Ridge families the joy of an outdoor pool during the hot summer months. I know these folks will do a perfect job at pleasing everyone, just as you did when you were on the board. Pax.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s what you get from the “users” of public resources: anything that lets them use at the lowest cost to them is wonderful; and anybody who opposes that is evil.

Users are PARASITES. In case you didn’t understand the last sentence, you’re P-A-R-A-S-I-T-E-S. You are the same kind of “users” who have made the State of Illinois a bankrupt entity.

We’re already down one pool with the demolition of Oakton. I have no problem with improving Centennial’s pool, and whether it’s technically a pool or a water park makes no difference to me as long as it’s not left to decay like Oakton was. Maintaining/improving our amenities takes money, and I also don’t have a problem with my tax dollars bring used for this purpose. But clearly there is a group if residents for whom no amount of spending would be acceptable. I’m not sure what to say to them other than it’s too bad you don’t find the park district facilities to be useful and valuable but there are plenty who do. I think it’s fair to say that there are more for this pool project than against it or we would have heard from more of them. This project did not happen under the radar at all.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anybody who has no problem with whatever gives them, their family and their friends whatever they want at the taxpayers’ expense IS A PARASITE. If Mountcastle and the mopes on the Park Board really thought that “there are more for this pool project than against it,” they would have gone to referendum to prove it – and shut up the naysayers, including this blog. But they didn’t – because they knew the MAJORITY of taxpayers wouldn’t vote to spend $7 million on an outdoor waterpark under ANY circumstances. So they didn’t want to have to make their decision in the face of a “no” vote.

This project was an outright FRAUD by Director Mountcastle, aided and abetted by the Park Board. But hey, you voted for them.

A few things. The mopes on the park board have followed the process as designed (they were not required to have a referendum on the pool) and the naysayers will have every opportunity to vote them out of office for this “transgression”. It is just like when the Mayor and council spend our money on things w/o a referendum or the school board.

In terms of the naysayers and this majority you speak of, are they the same majority who were so mindful of spending that they voted to bond, borrow and increase their own taxes to buy land for paddle tennis courts???

Lastly, I think it is fair to say that you voted for some of those board members too.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just because they’re “not required to have a referendum” doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have, especially when committing over $7 million to a project (most of which is debt that will be serviced over the next X years) that is making a major, permanent change to an existing park.

Every Park Board since 1990 – when another group of gutless wonders refused to give the taxpayers a vote and, instead, blew $8 million-plus of bonded debt on a second-rate Community Center that kept the District cash-strapped for the next decade – has gone to referendum on major projects like this. But because this Board didn’t give the taxpayers a vote on the new water park, we’ll never know how those taxpayers would have voted on it – unlike with the Youth Campus Park, even though this Park Board went to referendum on that project only because it HAD to after blowing most of its non-referendum debt on the water park.

When it comes to elections, sometimes you get to choose between a Mercedes and a BMW. But most of the time the choice is between vomiting and diarrhea; or heart disease and brain cancer.

“When it comes to elections, sometimes you get to choose between a Mercedes and a BMW. But most of the time the choice is between vomiting and diarrhea; or heart disease and brain cancer”.

I do not disagree. I was simply pointing our your holier than thou comment (But hey, you voted for them) was a bunch of crap. You voted for them too.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There’s no “holier than thou” involved: this Board has done what NO OTHER PARK BOARD in over 20 years had the arrogance, cowardice and deviousness to do.

8:18 am here-If you choose to run for a position on the PRPD board then you certainly must understand that your first responsibility is to manage and protect the assets of the PRPD. You also must understand you represent all of the taxpayers of PR not just those that see things your way. Therefore, when you are proposing to spend over $7,000,000 on a waterpark that we the taxpayers of PR have voted down at least 2 times before and which is usable only 3 months of the year assuming perfect weather-then you also better be prepared to take a whole lot of grief when you vote to do something this fiscally irresponsible.

And yes-the PRPD board or staff or both attended a meeting/training session where they were advised by aquatic experts that when proposing to build a waterpark then 1. keep it under the bonding referendum amount and 2. vote on it as a board during the holiday season when the taxpayers are busy and likely not paying attention. The PRPD board followed this advice to the letter.

There was no reason what so ever not to send this to referendum and let us the taxpayers decide if this was how the PRPD should spend what is now a $7,700,000 waterpark because before construction even started the project was over budget.

In addition, the pools could have been rebuilt as they were for substantially less (and without wastefully destroying a playground, boche ball court and dozens of mature trees that were part of the PARK district) leaving the PRPD the ability to have funds available to maintain or upgrade some of the other 140 acres and property they currently manage. Now because of this $7,700,000 waterpark-the rest of the PRPD properties will likely continue to deteriorate. But you will have your waterpark when a replacement pool would have

Refresh my memory…..exactly how many times has PRPD gone to referendum since 1990. I know of one time shortly after I moved here and of course the recent Park land referendum. There must be hundreds of others since 1990, right???

EDITOR’S NOTE: Given your multiple comments already this morning that suggest you may be suffering from multiple personality disorder, which one of their memories are we supposed to be refreshing – although your reference to “hundreds of others since 1990” suggests the mildly retarded one, yes?

Actually if you talk to some who disagree with me they might even say severely retarded. It is a great way of not answering a question, which by the way you did not answer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Revive one of the personalities that knows this stuff and you can answer your own question.

Wow…watery feces, puke, cancer and heart attacks. Even the left’s favorite whipping boy, Dathan Paterno, gets called nicer names than me on this blog.

As to the substance of a number of the posts:

1) On December 29, 2012, I engaged both the blogger and many of the posters in a discussion, on the record, of an advisory referendum. In that post, which is still accessible via the blog, I agreed with the editor that a question which asked, rather simply, “Do you authorize the Board to replace Centennial Pool at cost not to exceed the Board’s non-referendum bonding ceiling?” was appropriate. Indeed I advocated for such a question, on the record and in open session, but found absolutely no other support by the Board or staff.
2) Anon 8/20 7:28am – You statement regarding the Board members attending a meeting in which we were instructed to bring a pool project in under the non-ref number and wait until the holiday season to bring it to the public (so as to slip it in under cover of darkness) is not only an outright lie, but it smacks of the conspiracy theory that you and your ilk so vehemently rail against. I have never sat in any session, meeting, workshop, coffee clutch or Tea Party Get-together that ever discussed anything even remotely close to what you allege. If you have the stones to make such false and scurrilous allegations, than have the same courage to put your real name to it.
3) The timing of the public meetings (back in late 2012) and the authorization of the bonds was borne 100% from the timetable for constructing a new pool facility. If we waited any longer (and yes, we did push this to virtually the very last minute – solely in order to give the public as much opportunity as possible to voice their comments and concerns in public meetings), then we would have been looking at a 2015 opening for a new pool and the likely closure of the (Centennial) pool for the 2014 season due to its rapidly decaying condition. Once we received public input, the architects need to finalize drawings, the Construction Management firm needs to be engaged and put into place, bonds need to be voted on and issued, the IDPH has to approve our plans, and the City needs to grant permits. All of that needs to happen before one shovel of dirt is lifted. In fact, we just received the last permit a couple of days before the trucks moved in. Had we waited any longer to pull the trigger, we would likely have been faced with a shuttered Centennial in 2014 and 10 times as much outrage and vitriol as is being spewed on this blog at the moment.
4) I am equally frustrated at the overages we approved a few weeks back. Let’s not forget that I also pay well into the five figures for my own property taxes here in tony Park Ridge, just like you, and it annoys me to no end to see government money misspent. Maybe your angst is better placed, however, at the folks in Springfield, who have enacted legislation (i.e., the prevailing wage statute) which forces the hand of municipal governments to pay prevailing wage for any capital projects that it undertakes. As our construction manger (Mike Rink – Corporate Construction Services, Inc.) said, on the record and on video in a recent meeting, after questioning from yours truly, the labor costs we are incurring in this project would be lees by nearly 50% if this were a simple commercial or residential job and did not involve the prevailing wage statute. So thanks to Mr. Madigan and Mr. Cullerton for once again proving that you could care less about the taxpayers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Let’s not get too defensive, Mr. Board President. You might be the BMW? Or not, depending on the issue. But enough of these pleasantries, let’s go to the substance of your comment:

1) You may be correct, sir, but your advocacy “on the record and in open session” just doesn’t come through in the minutes of the December 20, 2012 meeting, which reflect only that “President Biagi moved that the Centennial Pool be reconstructed at an estimated Project Cost of approximately $7.1 million”; and that “[s]ome discussion ensued on…possible advisory referendum….” Next time, make the motion “for the record,” then advocate.

2) Way back in 1998 this editor, as a new member of the Park Board, attended some IAPD Annual Conference sessions and heard featured speakers advise the assembled bureaucrats and board members of those exact 2 strategies for avoiding referenda and minimizing public scrutiny/opposition. And the last Park Board to arrogantly and cowardly deny the voters a referendum on such a major project used that exact under-the-limit strategy when it commissioned the half-baked Community Center design to sneak it under the non-referendum debt cap. So we’re pretty darn certain your executive director was praticing both strategies as she orchestrated the water park process, irrespective of whether you Board members were in on the strategy or not.

3) So are you saying that you and your fellow elected representatives of ALL the taxpayers were willing to completely deny ALL those taxpayers a referendum vote on such a major, debt-financed project – and also cut out some of the most-wanted features like the lazy river – in order not to risk the possiblity that Centennial might be closed for next summer’s 3-month season? Seriously…that’s your story?

4) Frankly, we don’t give a rat’s derriere what YOU pay because YOU got to take away the taxpayers’ vote on the matter and dictate (along with your fellow Board members) that decision to the rest of us. If it truly “annoys [you] to no end to see government money misspent,” you don’t need to look to Springfield to see arrogant, wasteful spending in action; and by refusing to ask the taxpayers if they wanted $7.1 million (now $7.7 million – and counting?) spent on a 3-month/year water park, you folks made Madigan and Cullerton proud.

Rick, Rick , Rick Rick… Rick,

You seem to want to portray the matter as if you didn’t understand there was a prevailing wage rate when you undertook this project. Is that what you are saying?
If that is the case then SHAME ON YOU for not being aware of that BEFORE the project was scoped out, budgeted, voted on etc…
And if that’s not the case then let’s not act as if it is someone else’s fault you and the rest of the Board voted on a $7.1 million project that has morphed into a $7.6 million (and counting) project.

Let’s not play fast and loose with the facts Rick.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anon, Anon, Anon Anon…Anon,

You’re absolutely right that prevailing wage has been the rule for so long that it’s implied – or should be – in any project of this kind. And we’re not going to cut President Biagi – or any other Board members, or PRRPD Staff members, any slack for this fiasco.

But while you and all the other anons out there smugly hide behind the curtain of the anonymity this blog offers commentators, President Biagi – like Mayor Schmidt – has had the courage to show up here and respond to comments in their own names. And that’s a lot more than can be said for Mountcastle’s Munchkins that comprise the rest of the Park Board.

If you look back over the last several hundred posts on this blog there are 3 people who have posted that are identifiable. Rick posted on this thread, Mayor Dave chimed in with answer about viewing council meetings and Steve on a prior post. I suppose you can count MikeTouhy although I think that is more likely some guy named Mike who lives on Touhy.

If you are tired of the smug anon posters there is a simple solution. From now on you can only accept posts that have verifiable names. Hell why not require people to submit their address as well!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Like “Bobtouhy”?

Mr. Biagi-in my post I stated either PRPD staff OR board members OR both attended training put on by aquatic facility consultants for the best way to get a waterpark built without going out to referendum. So you yourself did not go. What about the staff and the rest of the board?

Mr Biagi also made a statement in a December 4 2012 letter where he asked should PR even have outdoor pools?

Was that really the issue. Or was the issue do we need a waterpark or replacement pools or an indoor aquatic facility. But the December 4 letter seems to indicate your position was either support the waterpark as proposed by the PRPD or no outdoor water at Centennial at all. And it got some PR residents to attend the meeting and beg for the waterpark.

But the PRPD never asked all PR taxpayers/voters via a referendum if they wanted a pool or a waterpark. $7,700,000 and counting later maybe the PRPD board should have asked. But too late. We just have to get over it-and wait for the budget overrun at the Youth Campus.

And-no-any angst over wasteful government spending is properly directed at the PRPD. $7,700,000 for a waterpark usable at most 3 months out of the year qualifies as wasteful to some PR taxpayers-even those who currently use the outdoor POOLS-so no need direct angst at Springfield or Cook County.

To all the Anons who have been dreaming of the day to rip on this project: Pop the cork, while you light a candle by that fallen tree you are mourning. I’ll quote a not-so great man (in a much more harmful bill) when he said BFD. If anyone expected this wasn’t going to cost more, they’re crazy.

I’ll tell the PRPD Board this….if it costs another 600k, spend it and just get it right. I think the Youth Campus Park has proven that Park Ridge voters are ready for nicer facilities. Don’t cut corners and produce another community center that is already old and not user-friendly. Also, make the parking lot right!! Hey, bring on the lazy river!

I wish everyone who posted so angrily for a year about Centenniel Pool reads their tax bill so they can focus their anger at the proper taxing entity that is robbing us. Hint: Most of the workers of that entity are probably on a beach somewhere right as we speak.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Even the editor of this blog – who opposes public sector unions as enablers, aiders and abettors of public corruption and otherwise bad government in this State – would rather waste $7.7 million on education than on a silly 3-month-a-year outdoor pool. Especially a second-rate one like this will be, without a lazy river and other features the PRRPD wouldn’t include because they had to keep the price (including cost over-runs) under the PRRPD’s non-referendum debt limit.

On the other hand, consider that for $7.7 million (plus debt service costs) the taxpayers get a water park that should last at least 30 years, but that same $7.7 can’t buy even 4 D-64 teachers for that same 30 years. And that doesn’t include their 20-30 additional years worth of pension benefits.

Anons above:
It’s not a water park. It’s a pool with a slide.
Don’t accuse obfuscation when you participate in it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “[A] pool with a slide”? For $7.7 million?

Yeah, right.

Exactly like bobtouhy!!!! Did you think that was by accident????

I always wondered where the current expression, “haters gotta hate” came from.
Now I know.
See you at the pool!

EDITOR’S NOTE: How about: “Users gotta use,” or “freeloaders gotta freeload”?

Make sure you get your Season’s pass…the more you use it, the more money it sucks out of the non-user taxpayers.

Wonder JJ the wonderful H-A reporter was bribed by the PRPD to be negligent in her reporting what their plans were?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nah, she doesn’t need to be bribed to print what the public relations spin-meisters give her.

“Make sure you get your Season’s pass…the more you use it, the more money it sucks out of the non-user taxpayers”.

How about something we can all agree on for a change?? As a “user” of the outdoor pools since my family moved to PR, we have always thought that it is the best deal in town. I hope that the new pool complex comes with a price increase for both one time and season pass prices. I realize there is a balance point between price and attendance but I think there is room for a fairly significant price increase here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Increasing fees for any government facility or program is the last thing “we can all agree on” – because the freeloaders, whose numbers keep increasing among the well-off as well as the not-so-well-off, want to freeload, or come as close to it as they can. And as they keep reminding us: THEY pay taxes!

“Make sure you get your Season’s pass…the more you use it, the more money it sucks out of the non-user taxpayers.”

Ah, so now you’re against the season pass? Have you considered all those folks who buy them and don’t use them enough to break even? Or would abolishing them be the only fiscally responsible thing to do?

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, we’re against the season pass – and every other Park District fee – that isn’t designed to maximize the revenue the District can generate from users and thereby reduce expenses to the taxpayers.

You’ve gone off the deep end now, Counselor.
I assume you are peeing in your yard, drinking from rain barrels and pogo-sticking to work to avoid becoming the kind of parasite who uses public sewers, water and streets, yes? And you’ve never set foot in the Library because that would also make you a parasite, right? And in a few years you will turn down Medicare, too.
Please. We need you to stay credible. For starters, stay sane.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Is your parasitism regarding public amenities so chronic that you think you can justify it with a reductio ad absurdum argument about public necessities?

Water park = streets? Library = sewers?

That’s such sloppy thinking it might not even qualify for Wolfgang Pauli’s: “That’s not even wrong!”

@6:05, funny we posted about he exact same thing but our experience is different than yours. Our family has not found it to be a good deal. Based on our usage, which has admittedly dwindled over the years, we’d have paid less overall if we’d just paid by the visit.

I’m sure the PRPD has the ability to track this. It would be interesting to know how many pass holders are getting a “good deal” vs those who are losing money.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Park District SHOULD have the ability to track this, and then come up with a business plan and various pricing/marketing strategies to maximize revenue generation. But we’re not aware of any of that being done, presumably because that kind of management is anathema to the bureaucrats; and Mountcastle’s Munchkins on the Board don’t have any such plan from her to rubber-stamp.


Of course there are large families and or folks who choose to go for an evening dip 4-5 nights a week after dinner who find the pass a great value, but what I meant was that BOTH pass and single visit are a value.

The single user can pay for entrance and stay and swim all day if they choose. Compare that to other forms of entertainment like a movie or example.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Remember: comparing a public-sector facility or program (like an outdoor pool) with a private-sector one “like a movie” is only allowed when it’s favorable to the public entity, as it was in your use of all day at the low-price pool versus 2 hours at a higher-priced movie. It is not allowed when trying to use private-sector prices to justify higher public-sector prices.

My larger point about bringing up D-64 was that it would be helpful to have this much energy and attention by all these posters and angry meeting attendees to where all of our money is actually going. The analyzation is very important, because it does hopefully put our elected officials on notice. But….please use this energy at the real source of our taxes.
The anger over the pool is like going crazy over ordering a Coke instead of a Diet Coke with your XL Big Mac Value Meal.

I will take the editor to task about season passes. If you look around, private enterprises all over (i.e. Great America, various water parks) offer season passes. Is it because they want to reward freeloaders? Nope. It’s a prepaid and clear economic benefit to get a base of people to support costs and fill the parks. It costs no more money for empty pools than it does for filled pools. It also puts the cost risk on the buyers of the pass. What if we have a year of rains or cold weather?

In fact, Des Plaines ($200 family of 4 & real water park) and Niles ($175 family of 4) offer season passes (with nicer facilities) at lower costs than Park Ridge.

Since cards are scanned at the parks, PRPD should be able to answer the question as to how many times season passes are used vs the cost and adjust accordingly.

The editor is on to something about revenue. If you have people there for a whole day….why the heck aren’t we selling things to increase revenue? I know there will be a “concession” stand, but hopefully it’s thought out enough to produce revenue and not just take up space.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Okay, we thought we were clear on this, but apparently not clear enough for some: We favor passes BUT AT A PRICE THAT PROVIDES A MEASURABLE BENEFIT TO THE TAXPAYERS RATHER THAN JUST TO THE USERS.

Unfortunately, that’s never been the Park District’s goal, and it’s also not the School Districts’ goal, either. Right now, only City government gives a rat’s derriere about the taxpayers; and Mayor Schmidt and certain aldermen have caught plenty of heck from the freeloader brigade for that.

The only way a season pool pass will benefit the taxpayers is if, as someone else said, we offered other revenue generating amenities once the patron is at the pool. That’s exactly what Great America does, with its high priced food and money-sucking carnival games.

The pools do have vending machines, which seem to get heavy use. I’m sure concession stands would do well — and I’ve often thought the same thing while watching baseball games at PR parks — but I’m sure the PRPD has weighed the costs of staffing and supplying them, which is why they are not provided.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with rewarding people with a slight break for signing up for a season pass. The daily user fees most certainly offset those breaks. But I don’t disagree that there may be better ways to slice and dice whatever data they do have to maximize revenue. All good businesses, private or public, should be doing that.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As best as we can tell, the PRRPD doesn’t know what its per-bather cost is, much less whether it is breaking even or making a buck on the daily user – or losing a buck on the pass user.

If the PRRPD had any kind of business sense, in addition to – or instead of – the concession stand it would build an arcade filled with games on which its “captive” kid-heavy audience could blow its money. Cha-Ching!

But don’t expect that to happen: the freeloader parents would scream bloody murder because their low-cost entertainment would suddenly become high-maintenance.

It looks as if the paddle tennis aficionados who voted for the Youth Campus park might not be getting their courts after all. From today’s PR Journal cover story: “Gayle Mountcastle, executive director for the park district, noted how the paddle tennis courts will only be built if park officials find an additional revenue source.”

They have enough money for two courts, but will only go ahead if they can do four and so they are looking for additional grants. Maybe Mel T. and the other OPL people will feel compelled to do some fundraising now in order to keep their promises? Some might see it as unfortunate for paddle tennis to go the way of the lazy river.

Mountcastle does seem happy about the YC amenities overall though: “Amenities have a good relationship for their function,” she said. As to the function of bureaucrats, she did not comment on record.

EDITOR’S NOTE: She’ll be the queen of the castle at the next IAPD annual conference: TWO multi-million dollar projects, totaling $20 million in bonded debt, with one of them the product of a successful referendum. And since she doesn’t live it Park Ridge, she doesn’t even have to pay any increased taxes for those bragging rights.

But that’s the bureaucrat life. We elect non-bureaucrats to keep those bureaucratic boondoggles in check; and our non-bureaucrats abused the pooch in several orifices.

So…already the PRPRD, the board and the OPL are changing the plan that voters approved? Kudos to them for being open about it, but what other changes to the advertised plan have they now approved after the fact? The article, not surprisingly, is thin on details:

Gayle says: “We will not go over our amount unless we have additional grants.” I predict an extraordinary coincidence: They will get grants. The grants will not be used to reduce the cost to the taxpayers, but add to them.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Let us know if/when Caesar’s sports book posts its line on this one…because we’ll join you in taking the “over.”

@12:09, please. I think the YC referendum passed not because of the paddle tennis fans but because people didn’t want to see the property go to a private developer to build houses we don’t need. As someone else recently commented, I guess haters are gonna hate no matter what.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, get your hip-hop on and your ebonics straight: it’s “haters gonna hate.”

2:29, so what you trying to pass off as logic follows that because paddle tennis wasn’t the only feature promised with this new park, that is therefore becomes irrelevant or a non-issue when it is removed? I suppose the philosophical question for us non-idiots and non-bureaucrats becomes how many amenities the PRPRD can fail to follow through on before what they are calling the “YC Park” or a “water park” fail to be either of those things?

I suppose these things don’t matter to the voter who voted “Yes!” not because they actually wanted a park or cared about what a park should be, but only to deprive the private sector of a chance “to build houses we don’t need.” And houses are a tricky one indeed because the people who promise to build those know that they can’t fail to build a roof and still call it a house…

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s a lot harder to bait-and-switch a private home purchaser whose own money is solely, immediately and undilutedly at risk.

“Frankly, we don’t give a rat’s derriere what YOU pay because YOU got to take away the taxpayers’ vote on the matter and dictate (along with your fellow Board members) that decision to the rest of us. If it truly “annoys [you] to no end to see government money misspent,” you don’t need to look to Springfield to see arrogant, wasteful spending in action; and by refusing to ask the taxpayers if they wanted $7.1 million (now $7.7 million – and counting?) spent on a 3-month/year water park, you folks made Madigan and Cullerton proud.”


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