Memorial Pool back on the ballot?

Board willing to entertain the idea, wants to see how far supporters get first

DIXON – Voters could get another go at renovating Veterans Memorial Pool.

Whether the park district board asks for another referendum to increase taxes to reopen the pool, however, depends on the direction supporters take, the board said Wednesday.

The board said it's in favor of cooperating with the group of about 40 people trying to open the historic pool, which has been closed for more than a dozen years.

Representatives from that group have met with Executive Director Deb Carey on a few occasions, and there is talk of a scaled-down renovation, which could cost around $1.5 million, Carey said.

Engineers have said in the past that it would cost $3 million to fix – and about $100,000 a year to run.

In 2007, voters said no by a margin of 931-644 on an advisory ballot measure designed to gauge the public’s interest in raising property taxes to repair and maintain the pool. In 2002, the park district tried to raise taxes to build a new pool, but that also failed.

Even if the park district were to get grants for this proposal, Carey said it would have to fund half the project through an increase in property taxes, which would require a referendum.

"I don't think there's many people that disagree it would be nice to have a pool open," Carey told the board. "The issue is money."

Board members said they are willing to put the issue back on the ballot, but don't want to undermine efforts by the group working to reopen the pool, which has split into committees to study possible fundraising and financing for the project.

The park board has agreed that it would give the pool to the city of Dixon if that avenue works better.

For the park board to put the question on the ballot, it would have to solicit certified engineering estimates for the renovation, which would cost $5,000 to $8,000, Carey said.

Board member Richard Koenig suggested sending surveys to citizens, but Carey said that usually comes at a cost and does not always yield telling results.

"I know people like to portray us as the bad guys, but we're willing to cooperate and do what we can," said Ron Pritchard, park board president. "I'm willing to put it on the ballot and ask the people to decide."

Board member Brett Schmall said that because the project has no time frame, he'd prefer the board wait to see what results come of the supporters' studies, then decide whether to put the issue on the ballot.

The other board members agreed.

To attend

Supporters of Veterans Memorial Pool will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the pool, 251 Custer Ave.