Published Feb. 26, 2015
Dist. 86 board chooses to remodel transition center vs. building new
By Ken Knutson
Students of District 86’s adult opportunities program will be moving out of their strip mall location and into a revamped transition center by the end of the year.
By a vote of 5-1, Hinsdale High School District 86 Board members Monday elected to purchase, remodel and enlarge the building on district-owned property at 7302 Clarendon Hills Road in Darien to create a 8,000-square-foot facility at a cost of $2.1 million. They also considered tearing it down to construct a new, 16,000-square-foot transition center that the district would lease, for a total capital cost of $7.2 million.
Board member Ed Corcoran said a new facility should be handled through the master facility plan.
“I don’t see the advantage or need to jump into a $7 million decision to build something now that we don’t even have measurable objectives for,” he said, adding that he thinks the remodel can be done for $1.5 million. “I think we should be pursuing the most simple, straightforward, successful option that we have sitting right in our hands.”
Board President Rick Skoda said he was uncomfortable with the “sleight of hand” lease-back approach proposed to finance a new building, which would accelerate the construction schedule but obviate the need for a referendum.
“I like option 4 (for a new building), but I am unwilling to play games and run around the voters and avoid a referendum,” he said.
Board member Kay Gallo advanced the idea that the district could begin construction on a new building with reserve money before putting a referendum to voters in March of 2016.
“In my opinion, I would want to use the reserves that we have and not tax the voters,” Gallo said. “I believe our voters, if educated properly, they will say, ‘Yes’.”
Currently, the transition center is located in leased storefront space in Willowbrook Square Shopping Center at Route 83 and 63rd Street, but the program’s enrollment has doubled over the last five years and is outgrowing the space.
Bill Eagan, the district’s chief financial officer, said that the remodeling project, if started July 1, would be completed in November or December, whereas a new building would likely take until August of 2016.
Eagan said the financial implications for each option are very similar.
“The analysis that we did do over the last several weeks showed that, in actual dollars, it is a coin toss between the remodel and (constructing) the new building,” he said.
Corcoran and board member Victor Casini questioned Eagan’s forecast that a larger facility will be required in 2021 at an estimated cost of $8.6 million.
“Am I making a decision today about the prediction of needing a new building in seven years? That’s the thing I’m having trouble with,” Casini said.
Eagan replied that is the most likely scenario.
“It took five years for our population to double. Within seven we’re going to need another building,” he said.
Corcoran said time is of the essence.
“I would like to see us do a project for $1.5 million and do the best that we can and get those kids out of the strip mall,” he said.