When it comes to the Settlers Hill Cross Country Facility, I have been consistent in my message:
...Operating the facility in the black, or at least a break-even number is the only way the project will get the support of Commissioner Kurt Kojzarek. He is the chairman of the county board's Development Committee, which is handling most of the legwork on the project...
..."If it takes another two years, so be it," he said...
Well, it took more than 2 years, but with today's unanimous vote at Development Committee, the project is now on track (pun intended) for completion well under budget with projections to operate at a revenue neutral capacity.
When the Settlers Hill Cross Country Facility was first proposed, I was counted as one of its most vocal skeptics. As a member of the Development Committee during my first term, I questioned both the construction costs as well as the ongoing impact on the County's bottom line. The Development Committee's split view of the proposal lead to a market and feasibility study which substantiated many of our concerns. But from the study, we were able to correct the ship and build a better project that incorporated a partnership with Chicago Area Track and Field Organizing Committee to run the facility at a revenue neutral level to the County for the first 6 years, switching to a revenue generating model thereafter.
The track itself was approved for construction at zero (yes, zero) cost to the tax payers, and approximately $1 million under the projected budget. How can that be? When the Settlers Hill Landfill was created, Waste Management entered into an agreement with Kane County to establish an Enterprise Fund for future development on the property and environmental concerns. This fund can only be used for purposes specifically outlined within the agreement, which specifically mentions the development of the hill itself. That means that the funds can't be diverted to offset the County's General Fund, build a new morgue or even lower taxes. They can only be used for the purposes outlined.
The County allocated roughly $4 Million from the fund to cover it's construction costs. This included $500,000 towards the purchase of clean fill for a portion of the western slope. The County, however, was able to turn a $500,000 expense into a $500,000 revenue source by charging - not paying - developers for the fill. Construction was approved at a cost of under $3 Million following a bidding process which included 7 qualified contractors.
In the end, the County will receive a new asset at no cost to the taxpayers in construction, operations or maintenance. The new course will be open to the public allowing Kane County residents beautiful views while enjoying the outdoors and maintaining a healthy active lifestyle. It is a fulfilment of the promise Kane County made to Geneva residents when the landfill was first opened, and our pledge to build and maintain the facility without adding burden to the County coffers.
Special recognition goes to colleague John Martin for his tireless efforts and support of the project within his district.
*** UPDATE ***
The proposal passed Finance Committee unanimously. Earlier this month the Forest Preserve Commission approved the 5 year deal with Northwestern Medicine for naming rights making this project cash positive from day one.