McHENRY – The city of McHenry hired an engineering firm to complete a feasibility study for an indoor pool at its recreation center.
City Council members voted to hire consulting firm Heller and Heller Consulting LLC to conduct the study over a three-month period. The company will look at McHenry’s demographics, the results of a recent parks and recreation community survey and operational plans for a potential indoor pool.
The city has agreed to pay $19,500 for the services from the McHenry Recreation Center fund. Any expansion of the existing recreation center would require some form of public funding, likely in the form of a tax increase. The question could be put to referendum next year.
The existing multimillion-dollar center was built from park developer donations accrued over many years. The space was designed with the intention to allow the possibility of an indoor pool addition. The center had been in the works since 1999, when city officials decided to save 50 percent of its developer donation revenue for a combined aquatic and recreation center.
Residents have shown a strong interest in expanding the facility, Parks and Recreation Director Bill Hobson said.
“The results of a recent community-needs assessment noted a strong desire to expand both indoor and outdoor offerings at the McHenry Recreation Center, such as an indoor pool for lap swimming, a warm water therapy pool and zero-depth spray pad,” Hobson said in a note to the City Council.
Residents also want a gymnasium with a walking track and an outdoor aquatic center with more amenities, he said.
City officials have to determine whether they want to use a referendum by August for the November election. The feasibility study will help figure out costs of the project, as well as maintenance and operational costs.
“The process of a referendum, as unpopular as it is, truly puts [the decision] in residents’ hands,” Hobson said.
City Council members voted, 4-3, in favor of the study, with 1st Ward Alderman Victor Santi, 2nd Ward Alderman Andrew Glab and 4th Ward Alderman Scott Curry voting against it.
The response rate on the community-needs assessment was 6 percent, which Curry said doesn’t show a strong interest.
“To me, it just doesn’t appear we have a great return for our investment for the survey,” Curry said. “I am unconvinced there is a strong community desire. Maybe it’s true, but I don’t think we have shown that.”