Decision on lakefront plan bond referendum coming Aug. 18

Wilmette Park DIstrict commissioners should decide at their Aug. 18 board meeting whether to put a $14.5 million bond referendum  on the November ballot to finance their lakefront master plan. | File photo
Wilmette Park DIstrict commissioners should decide at their Aug. 18 board meeting whether to put a $14.5 million bond referendum on the November ballot to finance their lakefront master plan. | File photo

The final financial building blocks are falling into place as Wilmette Park District commissioners get ready to make their multimillion-dollar lakefront master plan bond referendum official, and $14.5 million looks as if it will be the number that goes on a ballot question.

Members of the district’s financial planning committee decided on that number after meeting July 29, and will recommend it to the full board when commissioners meet Aug. 18, Executive Director Steve Wilson said. That date is also the last day the board can make a decision on whether to put a bond referendum on the November’s ballot.

The board meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall, 1200 Wilmette Ave.

If the referendum goes on the ballot and voters approve it, the district plans to issue bonds this fall and next spring to finance construction.

The $14.5 million figure represents a $500,000 increase in the amount of money the district will seek permission to raise by selling bonds, Wilson said Aug. 4. It won’t increase tax rates for district property owners but it will extend the bond payback time to keep tax rates flat.

It covers not only projected construction costs for the long-awaited Gillson and Langdon Park improvements that comprise the master plan, but also so-called “soft” costs not directly tied to construction as well as a 20 percent contingency cushion, among other things.

Nailing those numbers down has kept members of both the financial planning and lakefront committees busy since May when commissioners learned their previous cost estimates hadn’t included $998,000 in consultants’ fees. That initial word alerted them their first $13.3 million conceptual estimate would have to move higher.

Since then, district staff has worked with new cost estimates developed by project consultants W.B. Olson Inc. and by Commissioner Bryan Abbott, himself a project engineer, to tighten figures.

The district also used televised sewer inspections and soil borings to confirm it could cut some of the expected costs for improving the lakefront sewer, street and parking lot infrastructure. For instance, staff now believes it will only have to replace about half of aging sewer lines instead of three-quarters, Wilson said.

The final composite cost estimates set Gillson and Langdon basic construction costs at $10.38 million; estimates a $2.07 million contingency cushion, plus a 5 percent cushion of $519,000 to cover expected cost escalations as the projects move into 2015.

After adding professional fees and about $455,000 in final soft costs, the project estimate stands at $14,403,735.

Although district administrators suggested increasing the referendum figure to $15 million, committee members were more comfortable with the lower number, Wilson said.

Members of the lakefront committee, who last month had also been uncomfortable with hiking the referendum figure to $15 million, took one last look at the more specific figures Aug. 4, but made no new recommendations.

During the meeting they discussed a tentative construction schedule, which would require hiring a construction manager this fall and completing preliminary engineering in the same period. Final drawings would be complete in April or May of next year, staff said.

BIGGER TICKET

COST: est. $14.5 million

OF: possible bond referendum

FOR: lakefront master plan

BY: Wilmette Park District

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