McHenry City Council indicates early support for aquatic center

McHENRY – The city of McHenry inched closer Monday to a new aquatic and recreation center.

City staff received the go-ahead from the McHenry City Council at a Committee of the Whole meeting to prepare the paperwork contractors need to submit proposals.

The actual request for qualifications and proposals will need a vote from the City Council at a future meeting, but there was virtually no negative discussion among council members at Monday's meeting.

"I know that we've got to be losing business to other communities," Alderman Geoff Blake said. "I don't want to sound naive here, but I'm having trouble finding something wrong with this."

A rough rendering prepared by engineering firm HR Green and Williams Architects outlines a three-phase project.

The first phase consists of two parts, the mostly outdoor aquatic center and a start on the recreation center, according to plans.

The rendering included a three-lane lap pool, slides, splash pad, concessions, lockers and office space on the pool side, program space, an outdoor deck, a multipurpose kitchen and enough space to relocate the parks and recreation department.

The police department, which is "bursting at the seams," could expand into the space currently used by the parks department in the municipal center, Deputy City Administrator Bill Hobson said.

The later phases show second-floor fitness studios, a gym and an upper-level track.

Together, both parts of phase one would cost $7.3 million plus an estimated $1 million for parking and site work, Hobson said. If the city financed $5 million of the project over a 20-year loan, it would pay an estimated $330,000 in payments each year.

City Administrator Derik Morefield emphasized that the numbers were based on current figures and will change.

The city has accumulated $4.1 million in a recreation center fund since 1999, when the council decided to devote 50 percent of the developer donation revenue to the project.

Due to the drop in new development, very little has been added recently.

The money in the account is devaluing in terms of what can be built using it, said Alderman Andy Glab, who supports starting the project sooner rather than later to "get the most for our buck right now."

The proposed facility would be located south of Knox Park and west of the municipal center, meaning it could share parking. The city already owns the property.

While nearby Knox Park has a pool, it wasn't an option to expand there because of open space restrictions on grants, Hobson said. The 30-year-old pool is "shoulder to shoulder" some days and likelywill need work in the future.

Knox Pool generates about $20,000 a year, according to city documents.

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