D86 to go forward on pool fill-in project

New space to provide flexibility now, eventually could be used for gymnastics, wrestling

The existing Hinsdale Central pool will be filled in and the space converted for uses such as gymnastics and wrestling, potentially, as swim activities relocate to the new natatorium.

At their June 23 meeting, Hinsdale High School District 86 Board members voted unanimously to award bid packages to repurpose the pool area at a total cost of just more than $1.4 million, a considerable departure from the $870,000 originally estimated for the project.

Nick Graal of the district’s architectural firm Arcon told board members the price tag grew as more details were known of the work needed.

“There were several areas where the scope developed above and beyond what we had initially thought,” he said.

Graal cited electrical work, which went from a $5,000 line item to $153,000 due to the expense of decommissioning the pool equipment, installing low voltage wiring, and upgrading the lighting and fire alarms.

“We felt now was the time to do some of that life safety fire alarm work,” he stated.

Demolition, the flooring system and steel for truss reinforcement to support a rooftop HVAC unit were other areas that pushed costs well above the initial estimate. Project manager Marty Platten of Pepper Construction reported good response in the bidding for the pool repurposing, with the exception of the carpentry and steel contracting trades, which are at capacity in the current marketplace.

“We were able to get good participation for the most part,” Platten said.

Board member Jeff Waters advanced the idea that the project could be deferred.

“(With) both schools recently falling in enrollment, I don’t know if there’s an urgent need to move forward,” he said.

Hinsdale Central Principal Bill Walsh responded by pointing out that having the campus under construction and the possible continuation of social distancing protocols in the 2021-22 school year presented great urgency.

“I need a place to put students to meet the needs,” Walsh said. “I can’t continue to use the field house for lunch and operate athletic programs or PE programs or before-school programs, after-school programs.

“Central needs space.”

District 86 Chief Financial Officer Josh Stephenson said the district’s favorable financial position, including an anticipated $1.4 million budget surplus, persuaded him to recommend that this work be done now, with completion projected by the fall.

“We would either be doing this work now or we would be doing it in the future,” Stephenson said, adding the district will still be on solid fiscal footing. “I feel very comfortable saying there’s still significant value in the project.”

The new natatorium is expected to be operational by the start of the coming school year.

Board member Kathleen Hirsman acknowledged she was taken aback by the jump in cost for the work. But she didn’t like the idea of the pool just sitting fallow.

“It is not a good use for us to have that unused space when we have space needs,” Hirsman said.