Yorkville Mayor Gary Golinski charged members of the Parks and Recreation Board to consider new options for city-offered recreation without including the REC Center in its plans in the wake of voter opposition to a plan to purchase the building.
“The park board is going to have to look at new options and move forward … I consider the purchase agreement dead,” Golinski said in a special meeting of the city council and board members.
Golinski called the meeting before Thanksgiving so city officials could explore future recreation offerings and options. However, much of Tuesday’s meeting included continued support for the purchase of the REC Center by members of the Parks Board. Parks representatives touted the fiscal sense of the purchase. Kelly Sedgewick said the REC Center largely funds itself through membership fees and those dollars would also be used to purchase the facility without increasing taxes.
According to unofficial voter results, 52 percent of voters in the 19 precincts in Yorkville rejected the question. Election results show 3,704 voters opposed the idea, while 3,408 voters, or 47.9 percent supported the plan.
Board members questioned whether or not the nearly 300 vote difference between those opposing the purchase and those supporting it was enough of a mandate for the city to abandon the idea of purchasing the REC Center. Board member Amy Cesich suggested many voters who opposed the purchase did not understand the language of the referendum.
Alderman Rose Spears took umbrage at that comment saying the people of Yorkville are not “morons.” She said the voters opposed the purchase and she would support their wishes.
The REC Center houses the Recreation Department administrative staff, fitness equipment and programs, a pool and several recreation classes, although some recreation programs are offered at city parks and at local schools.
Board members also said the REC Center allows for the city to offer more programs for less cost. Sedgewick said they can offer approximately three times the number of programs at less cost since the city entered an agreement with the REC Center.
Without the REC Center Golinski said the city will have to reduce the number of recreational programs it offers.
The winter catalogue was set to go to the printers prior to the election, but that has been delayed until city officials can formulate a plan on what can be offered, said City Administrator Bart Olson,
Olson said the city would take a “financial hit” of approximately $500,000 over the next few years due to lost REC Center revenues as well as other costs. Terminating the contract with the REC Center will cost the city about $150,000 including $50,000 for wear and tear of the building and a $100,000 out-clause in the lease, Olson said.
Golinski said the costs of terminating the lease with the REC Center will actually take money from infrastructure projects, rather than injecting them with funds as he said some residents believe.
Prior to city officials discussing options, numerous residents spoke out against any plans to purchase the REC Center. Ralph LaGrande said the REC Center has not made a profit and the city should not undertake any additional costs for upkeep, especially in uncertain economic times.
The REC Center's budget, which remained separate from the Parks and Recreation Department's surplus budget, has run an annual deficit since the city began operating it in 2008. The annual deficit was about $77,000 in Fiscal Year 2009, about $50,200 in Fiscal Year 2010, and about $68,000 in the most recent fiscal year, Patch reported after the city voted to discontinue its lease.
The REC Center currently has 1,400 members. Over 3,000 people use the facility every month, according to city documents. In the wake the referendum Olson said a number of members have terminated their REC Center membership since the facility would likely be shut down.
“There was life before the REC Center, there will be life after the REC Center. It is what is is, but I don’t understand it,” Golinski said as the meeting adjourned.