Hinsdale district backs Central High 10-lane pool, fulfilling predictions of referendum opponent
The Hinsdale Township High School District 86 board on Sept. 12 approved an expensive 10-lane swimming pool for Hinsdale Central, making a Nostradamus of one leading opponent of the $140 million referendum approved by the voters in April.
The decision might also have alienated some of the referendum’s most ardent supporters.
The board's approval for the pool was a proposal that voters rejected last November when they shot down a $166 million referendum. Prior to the April vote on the follow-up referendum, board members promised a more modestly sized pool.
Burr Ridge’s Zach Mottl, who fought both referendums as the leader of a grassroots movement, D 86 Can Do Better, had a flier printed before the April vote depicting an image of an “Olympic-quality” pool with a red “X” in a box next to it, and listing other, more favorable options -- including repairing the pools currently at the schools for less than $2 million.
“Even people who were with me fighting the referendum thought I went too far with the image of the mega-pool,” Mottl told the DuPage Policy Journal. “Now I feel so bad being so right. I feel terrible for the taxpayers.”
The board also approved a smaller, six-lane pool for its other high school, Hinsdale South, reinforcing a sentiment among some residents that the board favors Central over South.
“We pay the same taxes and South gets the crumbs,” Mottl said.
At the Sept. 12 meeting, the board presented a cost analysis for pools, showing that along with other projects the estimated cost for Central’s pool is nearly $24 million, and $12 million for South.
“We recognize that the direction we provided on the pools is a departure from what was discussed in the months leading up to the April referendum,” the board said in a statement after the meeting. “We also understand that it might raise questions about the impact it may have on the other projects we have planned, or the money we have allocated to pay for them. With this in mind, we want to reaffirm our intent to complete the work at both schools on time and on budget, and provide insight into how we came to the decision about the pools.”
But at an Aug. 16 D86 facilities committee meeting, Pepper Construction, the construction manager for the more than 70 projects at Central and South funded by the referendum, said it is already projecting an overrun of $8,040,721. That would raise the taxpayer cost of the referendum to $147,856,704, not counting interest on the borrowing.
The news from the facilities committee meeting and Thursday night’s approval of the pool designs has some supporters of the referendum questioning the board’s moves.
“Did they explain how they will pay for it without compromising the other 70-plus projects?,” Yvonne Mayer of Burr Ridge wrote on Facebook.
“I know they want to get started but this decision is entirely too rushed….” Michele Irwin of Willowbrook wrote.
Mottl said he would look into legal options to stop the board from moving forward.