By Paul DelGuidice

For The Villa Park Independent

 

Recently, some signs have begun appearing around Villa Park.

They look like typical political campaign yard signs, but these read simply “Save Lufkin Pool.” The signs are part of the Save Lufkin Pool Group’s strategy to raise the awareness of residents about the imminent closure and demolition of the six-decade-old community swimming pool located at 1000 S.Ardmore Ave.

The group is also lobbying the Village Board of Trustees to re-vote on funding needed repairs to Lufkin Pool so it can open for the 2018 season, as well as the next eight to 10 years until a modern aquatic facility can be funded and built.

“Many residents are upset by this decision [to close Lufkin],” said Katie Mueller, the first of a dozen pro-save Lufkin Pool residents who spoke at the Jan. 22 Board meeting. “They feel that the vote was done in the matter it was and at the time of year it was so as to NOT make residents aware of (the vote).”

The speakers each contributed during their allotted three-minutes to address the Board.

Amy Jenkins, who has worked as an internal auditor, said the group has gone over the Village’s finances and ‘found’ the needed $450,000 to fund the liner (about $90,000), the engineering study (about $25,000) and other needed repairs ($335,000) including pumps, piping and pool-house maintenance.

“We are currently budgeted to end fiscal year 2018 with $9.1 million in the general corporate fund,” Jenkins said. “That equates to 146 days cash reserve. Spending the $450,000 on Lufkin repairs would equate to seven days, leaving the Village with 139 days of cash on hand.”

 

Village reserves too conservative

The figures Jenkins quoted refer to the Village’s reserve funding. Most municipalities strive for 90 days of reserves — meaning they are able to pay for 90 days of operations (fire, police, other Village services) without any income or revenue. This is also sometimes called a ‘rainy day fund.’ Villa Park has maintained 120 days of reserve funds since about 2013.

“Bottom line, we have the money to repair Lufkin — and Jefferson too, for that matter,” Jenkins said.

Mary Ann Testa addressed the Board with some proposed ideas to increase revenue at Lufkin and Jefferson Pools. These ranged from a small increase in pool pass cost to charging more for groups that want to rent out the pool for meetings and parties to other marketing and advertising opportunities. Testa estimated that about $27,000 could be raised annually to help defer the operating costs of the pools. According to Testa, the Save Lufkin Pool groups analysis of pool operating costs indicated that each pool costs the Village about $46,000 per year.

The different nature of each pool was another benefit to keeping both pools operational. Jefferson is geared more toward lap swimming and hosts Mariners swim team meets. Thus, it is available to open swimming for less time per season. Lufkin has shallower areas and can accommodate families with younger and older kids at the same time. Mueller pointed out that Lufkin gets more visitors than Jefferson, about 16,385 per year compared to 12,830 over a 10-year average.

 

Friends of Villa Park Pools may form

Save Lufkin Pool group organizers also propose that once Lufkin Pool has been repaired, they will ‘morph’ into a longer-term entity: Friends of Villa Park Pools. Advocating for an eventual Community Aquatic Center/ Recreational facility, helping with fundraising and working toward creating a dedicated Park District.

“However, this Friends organization would NOT be formed if Lufkin Pool is demolished,” according to the group’s notes, “You will lose out on a wonderful opportunity to move Villa Park forward with its plans for the future.”

Tom King summed up the impact with a single comment: “How many people have come to this meeting to support the closure of Lufkin Pool?”

 

Former Parks staffer blames Village management

Terry Wolf, a former staff person of the Parks and Recreation Department, also addressed the Board on Monday. He said he is not a part of the ‘Save Lufkin Pool’ group, but supports them. Wolf said he believes the Village should find a way to fix Lufkin Pool. He also said he is actively working on forming a Park District. He laid the blame for the years of inaction on the Lufkin Pool issue squarely on Village Manager Richard Keehner.

“The issue of our failing pools is an epic failure of Manager Keehner, to keep the board and the community aware of our needs,” Wolf said. “Clearly Manager Keehner has failed at his job to keep this board informed and I hope you will hold him accountable for this.”

Wolf was the second former Parks employee to speak on behalf of the Save Lufkin Pool group. Marlin Hummels, who retired a few years ago, had posted his support for the group on their Facebook page shortly after the Save Lufkin group was formed in December.

Katie Mueller, the first speaker, summed up the Save Lufkin Pool group’s goals.

“So on behalf of the residents of Villa Park, the Save Lufkin group would like to request the Board do the following,” she said. “Vote NOT to demolish Lufkin Pool and vote to fund the $450,000 on needed repairs to Lufkin so it can re-open in 2018.”

Trustee Nick Cuzzone, who was acting Village President during the Save Lufkin presentation (Village President Al Bulthuis was absent from the Jan. 22 meeting) said he appreciated the group’s efforts and promised that the Board and Village staff would be discussing the issue further.

 

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