Monday, September 27, 2010

Expansion at Glen Ellyn

From the Daily Herald ...

A platform tennis club's creative plan to pay for two additional courts and a new warming hut at Maryknoll Park in Glen Ellyn resulted in match point for an effort to receive the park district's support.

Pending the approval of a contract with the club, the park district has agreed to pay $200,000 of the estimated $350,000 project. The balance will be paid by the club through donations and a $100,000 private contribution.

But what makes the deal unique is the club's agreement to take out a $150,000 loan and pay its interest, which they estimate will be between $4,000 and $5,000 per year over the next two years.

That means the park district is on the hook for only $50,000 right now, but in 2013, the same year non-referendum bonding power returns to the park district, it will be obligated to pay the $150,000 principal unless alternate payment options are included in the final contract.

The board discussed several payment options for 2013, including using that borrowing power or reserve funds, as well as breaking the payments up into three $50,000 annual installments.

The deal passed with a 4-3 vote, with dissenters objecting to committing funds from a future board's budget. Board President Ed Hess, however, stressed the results will be beneficial.

"I don't look at it as tying up a future board," he said. "I look at it as giving a future board a facility and something they can be proud of at an unbelievable cost in dollars. It's phenomenal."

The plan installs two new courts and a tentative 1,200-square-foot hut to be used by players of the outdoor winter sport, which is played on a slightly raised platform that includes heaters underneath to keep the playing surface clear of snow and frost.

Although all board members agreed that the club's plan and commitment of money were admirable, Commissioner Jay Kinzler said the tactic goes against the spirit of the law.

Government entities are limited in their ability to borrow money without referendum. The park district has reached its limit until 2013, and Kinzler said committing that money in the future merely goes around that law.

"It's circumventing the intention of the law, which limits the amount of money that can be borrowed by a local board," he said.

Club representative Ryan Snyder, who along with Scott Park made the presentation to the board, said he was thrilled with the approval but had hoped for unanimous support, despite the board's history of split votes.

"We were hoping to get the full support of the board because we think it's that type of project," he said. "We were hoping to bridge that gap."

Snyder said the sport's present position as a niche sport will change over time and that he does not think supporting a sport with 150 players is a bad thing.

"You can look at a lot of things. My taxes pay for an ice rink I never use," he said. "I appreciate that the money goes to that. But (platform tennis) will be a sport a lot of people play."

Snyder told the board the sport presents a family-oriented option to increase recreation offerings to adults.

Supporters of the plan said the hut would benefit the district by offering year-round use as it can be used as a place for parents to watch their kids in the nearby safety village during the summer.

"I'm very excited about it," said Commissioner Sandy Minogue, who voted for the project. "When we continue to talk about future boards, it's part of our jobs as commissioners to have vision and see down the road. This will be something that will continue to grow and grow. We'd be making a huge mistake not moving forward. There's very little risk for us."

Near the end of the discussion, Commissioner Bill Dallman refused a request by Kinzler to recuse himself from the vote because Dallman plays the sport with the club members.

Tennis: Glen Ellyn won't be responsible for paying full amount until 2013