Frustrations have been mounting for months over the pace of the negotiations to bring a multi-million dollar recreation facility to Forest Park, but it appears the village and the West Cook YMCA are finally set to ink a deal next month.
Village commissioners met behind closed doors last week to hash out the details of what is thought to be the final draft of an agreement that has been in the works since 2005. Though council members agreed this will likely be the last go-round at the bargaining table, there are differing opinions as to why the talks are ending.
“It’s either happening now or it’s not happening at all, in my opinion,” Commissioner Mark Hosty said.
Hosty, though optimistic a contract is at hand, painted a do-or-die scenario in which the newest contract offer is something of an ultimatum. Constructing a YMCA facility in Forest Park is preferred, Hosty said, but the longer this project is stalled the more inclined he is to begin fishing for new opportunities.
“If they don’t (build a facility) I’m sure we can find a great use for (the land) for the village of Forest Park,” Hosty said.
The village is looking to sell 7.7 acres adjacent to the Altenheim property to the Oak Park non-profit in exchange for a commitment to erect a $19 million YMCA campus. In January the parties agreed to a $4.3 million price tag for the land. The West Cook YMCA is looking to escape the cramped and outdated building it currently occupies on South Marion Street in Oak Park.
According to sources on both sides of the table, talks have slowed because of haggling over buy-back clauses, construction timelines and other protections requested by both parties.
Hosty is one of two council members, along with Mayor Anthony Calderone, who has worked on the project since its conception. Calderone acknowledged frustrations with the negotiation process, but offered a much more tempered assessment of the circumstances.
“In a nutshell, I’m expecting that the YMCA is going to sign that agreement and we’ll vote on it in November,” Calderone said following the Oct. 24 council meeting.
Should the YMCA board of directors seek additional changes to the document, Calderone said that could create real problems and “throw a monkey wrench” into what is an otherwise done deal.
Jim Lencioni is the president of the YMCA board and said he is confident there is a consensus to sign the contract with Forest Park. His organization will vote to pen its signature first, Lencioni said, probably within the next few weeks. The YMCA board’s next scheduled meeting isn’t until the third week of November, but a special meeting will likely be called.
“I would think we would act very quickly,” Lencioni said.
Commissioners Mike Curry and Marty Tellalian both said they can envision a scenario in which they vote against selling the land, a move that would deeply fracture the five-member body on the issue. For Curry, there are a number of contingencies that need to be in the contract before he will vote in favor. He declined to state specifically what those conditions are, but assured residents that if those requests aren’t met he’ll be voting no.
“If they don’t like this agreement then I think it’s time for the YMCA to find a new location,” Curry said.
Prior to winning a council seat earlier this year, Tellalian has questioned whether Forest Park’s interests are being served by the project. For starters he’s unhappy with the discounted price the land will be sold for. However, Tellalian said any vote in November is “just a formality.”
“Certainly, I don’t think it’s appropriate that we have a two minute discussion about this when the YMCA finally gets passed,” Tellalian said.
Commissioner Rory Hoskins rated his own assuredness in a deal being reached with the YMCA at about 70 percent. Should an agreement not be reached, Hoskins said he is less willing to dismiss this project in favor of another, in part because there are covenants in place with the neighboring Altenheim property.
“We’re hoping that we have one signed in November, but the Y’s chairman, Jim Lencioni, is pretty confident his board will approve it,” Hoskins said.