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After referendum defeat, Huntley Park District won't ask voters for $18.75M again

After referendum defeat, district says it won’t ask for $18.75M again

Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014 10:10 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, March 22, 2014 10:11 p.m. CDT

HUNTLEY – The Huntley Park District has received the strong message voters sent regarding the district’s $18.75 million referendum question.

Executive Director Thom Palmer said the district will not try to ask voters again about issuing $18.75 million in bonds that would have added a new indoor turf facility and set aside $2 million to acquire future land.

Voters rejected the referendum by a 3-to-1 margin during the primary election Tuesday. More than 77 percent of Huntley voters in McHenry and Kane counties voted against the question.

“The question has been asked and answered,” Palmer said. “Beyond that, it’s business as usual in the park district. There is no additional plan to reissue the question at anytime.”

The district also doesn’t have alternative plans to try to finance the expansion, he said.

Since announcing the referendum in September, officials thought they had the demand for a new indoor turf facility based on a 2011 community survey that helped form the district’s comprehensive plan.

The indoor facility would have provided a playing surface for soccer, lacrosse, softball and other turf-related sports. It would have also included multipurpose rooms and bocce ball courts.

Park district commissioners and officials toured similar facilities in DeKalb and other suburbs, developed concept plans and paid $4,840 to test the soil at the proposed site.

But residents’ moods may have changed since the district’s survey in 2011.

During a forum at Sun City Huntley two weeks ago, residents questioned the need for an indoor facility, with School District 158 rolling out plans to construct a new fieldhouse as part of its Huntley High School expansion.

Others in the retirement community doubted whether they would use the amenities at the proposed facility when Sun City already offers similar features.

Taxpayers also wouldn’t have seen immediate property tax relief, if the district’s bonds were extended. As it stands now, the district’s existing construction bonds are set to expire in 2015 and 2018.

Palmer wouldn’t speculate on the reasons why voters rejected the referendum. The question, he said, was always intended to get direction from the public.

“It truly was a question for the community,” he said. “We asked the question, and we got the answer.”

Officials, though, may one day ask voters about paying for future land expansion. That issue was lost in the shuffle of the referendum campaign, Palmer said.

Added land, he said, would allow the district to develop parks and other open spaces for residents.

“I don’t know when that would be,” Palmer said. “But it would be interesting to see if any community groups would be interested in having a conversation about that.”

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