Finance Expert’s Advice to the Crystal Lake Park Board after District Asked to Buy Northwestern Medicine’s HealthBridge

From bond analyst Steve Willson to the Crystal Lake Park Board last November:

Northwestern Medicine’s HealthBridge.

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.

HealthBridge indoor pool.

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.

HealthBridge outdoor pool, closed before the establishment was shut down, I believe.

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. 

HealthBridge fitness machine room.

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.


Finance Expert’s Advice to the Crystal Lake Park Board after District Asked to Buy Northwestern Medicine’s HealthBridge — 17 Comments

  1. One of the arguments in prior years against a community center was that a lot of that was already being offered by Health Bridge.

    I would imagine that any purchase would be done via referendum.

    All of the previous referenda for a community center were roundly defeated.

    However if this is done by way of a referendum and the voters approve it, then there should be no complaint.

  2. This idea that these generic credentialed people, after election to some Board.

    Suddenly become magical Swiss Army Knife’s, to fixing and running everything from Health Clubs, Golf Course’s or Pancake House’s, is truly bizarre.

  3. According to the tax records, this property has an Assessed Valuation of $2,795,541 (or a FMV of $8.4 million) and

    they paid property taxes of $269,984 in 2022.

    If the CLPD purchases this property, it comes off the tax rolls and every taxpayer’s taxes will have to be increased

    forever to make up for the lost $269,984/year.

    And that includes taxpayers that do not even live in Crystal Lake that have a levy burden to D-155, D-47, MCC, and

    McHenry County.

    Do those people have a say in the matter?

  4. The previous attempt to purchase Viking Dodge for a community center fell apart at City Council because it would have taken a lucrative potential future car dealership off of the tax rolls, although the city council claimed that other things, such as traffic, were the reason.

    This purchase would not require city council approval because it is already zoned for that type of use.

  5. And the Y has a POOL what about the 4m $ park that Dawson stuck us for.. there some water there.

  6. Google lays off thousands, GM, Facebook, and Twitter, all cutting. Gubment?

    Nope, no cuts there.

    Any mention of cuts to the recent omnibus bill and Michelle Obamas, multimillion dollar “walking trail?”


    In fact, the opposite, even here at a local level.

    Spend, spend, spend and hire more employees and or democrat voters on projects disguised as “community growth.”

    I can count at least six Health Clubs off the top of my head in Crystal Lake alone.

  7. Send em all to the new Edge Fitness Center in CL by Portillos.

    Quit coming to the YMCA–crybabies from HealthBridge saying ‘no warm water pool here, locker rooms too small, not enough treadmills, blah blah, whiners.

    Or better yet, go to the Huntley Bridge center still open.

    Do not let the Government buy that CL facility–it needs an overhaul and a Staff that will want pensions and benefits.

    Cha-Ching to you Crystal Lake taxpayers. Spoiled rotten at CL Healthbridge–“wheres the YMCA juice bar”? Aint got one.

    Go pound a barbell.

  8. Steve Wilson is truly God’s gift to Crystal Lake and Lakewood.

    His time at the FBI and Merrill has really paid off.

    Thank you Steve.

    Thank you.

  9. Too much wasted floor space that cost a lot of cash to operate at a profit.

    They’ll have to redesign the weight room as well as increase membership which will be tough.

    There are several options in CL that are under $20 dollars per month.

  10. LOL…as if you need a “financial expert” to dermine if a government agency should take responsibility over a multi-million dollar boondoggle.

    I can see it now:

    “Crystal Lake Referendum for CL Park District Property Tax Increase to meet unexpected cost increases due to Health Bridge”.

    Followed by, “Don’t worry, it’s only a $57 increase per household.

    C’mon, people, isn’t it worth $57 per household to keep the children happy?”

    These people are scum.

  11. I’m guessing Napolean is still a little sore about Steve Wilson, getting Banana Pudding, nixed off the Red Tail Clubhouse menu.

  12. Everthing in those park district programs already comes with a fee.

    How about considering taking them OFF the tax rolls, since it’s run as a business anyway?

  13. The whole park district has been a scam since the eighties.

    They have no accountability yet keep raping the taxpayers for their opulent ideology.

    They are criminally negligent when it comes to your safety but cannot be touched in any court of law because of corruption in the judicial system that protects only them. Why would I want to pay more into their schemes?

    P.S. I haven’t gone to anything the park district has going on since they started charging fees. Zero integrity and the raw greed are infuriating.

  14. Cool story Cindy. Btw, No one misses you at bingo or craft club. Go yell at clouds.

  15. +1 Cindy just another set of swamp rats with hand out… mo mo mo

  16. The CL Park District typically imposes a fairly significant price differential on non-residents who wish to use its facilities.

    The Park District needs to think long and hard about whether or not there are enough potential customers who reside in the District to make the place financially viable.

    HealthBridge used to draw customers from a fairly wide area due the unique facilties and services that it offered, but if the price goes way up for non-resident customers, many if not most would choose to go somewhere else.

  17. The qualified immunity from suit that the park district has is not a matter of “judicial corruption”, but is based in a statute passed by the legislature, a different branch of government.

    You cannot sue them for simple negligence as you can a homeowner; you have to allege and prove they acted in a willful and wanton manner.

    For example, stretching a steel cable across a road leading to a closed park, with no reflectors or warnings, so that a motorcyclist hits it in the dark, would be negligent.

    It was held not to be willful and wanton.

    People on this blog often throw out that corruption charge against the local judiciary, but never with any evidence, facts, or cases.

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