The Urbana Park District has kept its promise to involve the public in developing plans for a replacement for Crystal Lake pool.
Urbana voters have looked with favor upon their park district's requests for money over the last two years, approving tax increases in the midst of poor economic conditions.
A 15-cent property tax increase approved in April 2009 was devoted to maintenance issues across the district, including building a new maintenance facility, while an 11-cent property tax hike approved last April by 62 percent of those voting will help pay for a new aquatic center to replace Crystal Lake pool.
The approval of the tax increases is remarkable given the economy and shows the regard Urbana residents hold for the park district, but more importantly the benefit of openness and getting the community involved. Now the district has approved final plans for the new aquatic center to replace Crystal Lake pool.
The Urbana Park Board last week accepted the architect's plans for the $6.1-million pool project along with approving the property tax levy for next year. The board will hold an open house before its Jan. 10 meeting for the public to review the plan. The new aquatic center is expected to open in May 2013.
The final design is slightly downsized from a previous design because of higher-than-anticipated construction costs, including difficulty with the topography of the site and the need for a new, more costly filtration system because of sanitary-sewer issues in the north Urbana neighborhood. All told, the new plan trims about $900,000 from the cost of the aquatic center.
The new design for the outdoor pool has three water surfaces instead of four, a smaller bathhouse, less concrete and a vending machine concession stand, and does not include a $250,000 "bowl slide" that was in the original pool concept plan.
The largest of the three separate pools will be a leisure pool for young children. There also will be an eight-lane competition pool and a 1,615-square-foot plunge pool with a diving board, a drop slide and possibly a 6-foot-high climbing wall that extends over the pool.
A fourth water feature of the aquatic center, a small stream bed for wading, could be built if funds become available. The water feature and six other items are listed as alternates if more money, including a potential $400,000 state grant, becomes available.
Park district officials made it clear before they closed the old Crystal Lake Pool in 2008 that they were interested in replacing it and would listen carefully to the public about the specifics of any projects. They sought comments from the public about what they would like to see in a new swimming facility and conducted an open process every step of the way.
Because of this openness, we supported the park district's request for a tax increase, and we think the result will be an aquatic center that will be a community resource for years to come. Other local government units could learn from how the park district has conducted this process.