From bond analyst Steve Willson to the Crystal Lake Park Board last November:
I read that you’ve received a petition to purchase the old Health Bridges.
I’m sure this is an attractive proposition for the Park District, which has wanted an indoor pool for, literally, generations.
I suggest that you move very carefully on this.
First of all, it’s the job of the board to watch out first and foremost for the taxpayers.
It’s very easy to become a cheerleader for more parks, but that’s not your job.
Your job is to make a rational decision based on relevant and objective data with the taxpayers in mind. Making the government bigger does not necessarily equal making the taxpayers better off.
Second, the fact that Northwestern shut down the facility without finding a buyer first is strong evidence that the facility is a money loser.
This should encourage strong skepticism on your part.
Third, the people who were dues paying members of this facility can still use Northwestern’s facilities in Huntley, which is less than ten miles away.
They have not been severely discomfited.
Fourth, it’s the job of the government to provide those services that the private sector is inherently incapable of providing, such as roads and sewers.
This community has plenty of places to exercise.
It has no need for the park district to provide such facilities.
So, consider buying the facility ONLY if it’s not sold to a private entity.
(And then be sure to down bid them substantially.)
Fifth, if you choose to buy it, you will either have to seek authorization at a referendum or use alternate revenue bonds.
If you seek to use alternate revenue bonds, you’ll need the opinion of an expert that the facility is highly likely to be self-supporting.
I’ve been in the municipal finance business for more than forty years, and I was here when the Village of Lakewood misused the Alternate Revenue Bond act to buy RedTail.
If you choose this option, I will review the study and if it is convincing, then I’ll support issuance of the bonds.
If the study is less than convincing, I’ll oppose the issuance of the bonds.
Alternately and more positively, consider me a resource in such evaluation. Let me be clear: I am NOT seeking a paid position as a consultant! I’m sixty-nine, semi-retired, and not looking for clients. Besides, I work on the other side of the business. Rather I’m offering to work pro bono and informally to help you understand how such a proposition should be evaluated and what evidence should be considered. In short, I would be pleased to help you understand how to make your own, informed decision.