Funding campaign for new pool underway

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J. Ryan Casserly, president of Westport Pools, fields questions from the crowd during the town hall at Waterloo High School. 

Waterloo Citizens for a Pool hosted a town hall meeting last Tuesday night to address community questions and concerns, as well as to officially kick off a capital campaign. 

As WCP President Amy Grandcolas previously presented to the Waterloo Park District Board, the desired pool location is at William Zimmer Park to the east side of a proposed splash pad. She also recapped the nonprofit’s preferred design for a $3.9 million aquatic facility, which includes a one-vessel pool with a lazy river and vortex, water basketball, teaching zones and more. 

At the town hall, one citizen was concerned there would not be enough features to draw local kids away from other, farther away community pools, such as a diving board and slides.

Grandcolas said there are opportunities to add more features at not much of an additional cost. 

“(Westport Pools) has brought to us some new, fun features that have come out over the years that give you that same fun value at a fraction of the cost that can easily be added,” she said, citing an Aqua Zip’N rope swing. 

Of the 60 in-person and 15 Zoom virtual attendees, there was a decent number of parents of Waterloo Piranhas swimmers. Piranhas head coach Andrea Kuergeleis voiced her support, stressing that the pool would help the ever-growing summer swim team. 

She said this year, they had to “turn kids away because we didn’t have the space.” In the span of a few years, the Piranhas grew from 30 to 140 swimmers. 

“The Monroe County YMCA has supported us, but we have a lot of constraints,” Kuergeleis said, stating the team is “all about” a Waterloo pool. 

In keeping with past attempts to bring a pool to Waterloo, a common concern among the community is how the pool would be funded, particularly if this would require an increased tax burden. 

As Grandcolas told the park district board, WCP is researching grants as a primary funding option. 

She specifically mentioned a big-ticket grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Grant. The grant is titled Rebuild Downtowns and Main Streets Capital Grant and is specific to rebuilding public spaces. The grant can provide up to $3 million, but not without community support.

“There’s a lot of heavy weight for projects that have a strong community support and also have the backing of various government bodies within the community,” Grandcolas said. “So, we are hoping to continue conversations with the city and the park district to see hopefully how we can apply for this grant as a joint effort to try to make this happen.” 

In terms of covering operation costs, Grandcolas said the entity running the pool, whether it be the park district or someone else, would have the final say. 

She said possibilities include admission, including charging resident/non-residents different amounts, programming, classes, concessions and events and more. 

There is still a possibility, Grandcolas acknowledged, that bond or tax referendums would be needed to shoulder build and operating costs, but this depends on how much is raised through the capital campaign. Each, if deemed necessary, would be put as its own referendum on the June 2022 primary election ballot, Grandcolas and WCP Secretary Eric Reinhard explained. 

When asked what a tax referendum would cost per home, Reinhard said in the worst case scenario where WCP would rely on taxpayers to foot the total building cost of $4 million over a 15-year schedule, there would be a .1 percent increase on property taxes. 

For those who own a property assessed at $300,000, this would be $100 per year. 

This tax increase would not apply to the whole county, and the feasibility of changing the park district’s taxing boundaries to do so is unlikely, Grandcolas said. However, pending further research, WCP may find a way to make a potential tax burden more “fair” for Waterloo citizens. 

“Another option that I did mention we don’t have a lot of information on currently, but it’s kind of our next research project, is to look into sales tax. Westport has worked with several communities in Missouri that have recently gotten theirs passed with sales taxes,” Grandcolas said. 

She said this is currently her preferred option, as she believes the pool could generate a good amount of funding by doing so. 

“Many say Waterloo doesn’t have industry, but I think we tend to overlook that really the industry here is retail, and it brings in people from a lot of different areas. We have the regional Walmart, we have the regional RP (Lumber), we have the regional Rural King, so then you’re taking your tax base and spreading it much further where you’re only needing pennies on the dollar from individual transactions that then get you the funding you need to do this.” 

She said she hopes to have more information on the possibility of implementing a sales tax and what tax referendums may be proposed during the primary election by the next town hall meeting, which WCP hopes to hold early next year. 

WCP is exploring bond referendums as well.

With tax increases being a large concern, Grandcolas said the success of WCP’s capital campaign is incredibly important, as it could offset a potential tax burden. 

She said it is important to get the whole community involved – from businesses, clubs and organizations to individual families – to donate supplies and monetary funding.

“We are now officially launching our capital campaign,” Grandcolas told town hall attendees. “This is our plea to you: get us connected with those businesses, get us connected with those community organizations. We want this to truly become a large community effort that everyone can rally behind. We are willing and ready to start holding these meetings for the community organizations, businesses, foundations, church groups, anyone who is interested in helping create a positive impact for the community.” 

Monetary donations of $100 or more will receive a special “thank you” in the Republic-Times newspaper, and “gold” and “platinum” contributions of $2,500-$4,999 and $5,000 and over, respectively, will receive recognition on the planned Wall of Giving. 

“We have plans for a Wall of Giving that would provide people (the opportunity) to either give in honor of their family or in memoriam of someone,” Grandcolas explained. 

Cash gifts can be sent to Waterloo Community Pool Fund, P.O. Box 116, Waterloo, with checks being made out to “Waterloo Citizens for a Pool.” 

WCP is specifically asking for donations of the following: building, landscape, printing and promotional materials; fencing; excavation and grading supplies and “any related items that can cut costs of the overall project.” 

Sponsorship opportunities for specific features of the aquatic center, such as Aqua Zip’N, climbing wall, lazy river and vortex, locker rooms, concession area, landscaping and even the entire vessel are available as well. Just at the town hall meeting, WCP secured a sponsor for all of the lifeguard chairs. 

Grandcolas said other generous families have already reached out to donate. 

“We are so happy that we are able to start this capital campaign and are immediately starting to get support from the families in the community that want to do what they can to help see this happen,” she said. 

Grandcolas addressed a common donation concern: What if the pool is not approved? 

“We will make sure, we do have a lawyer on staff, that there will be a clause for all donations and pledges (and) letters of intent, that ultimately if something is not started by 2025 we will revert back to the grantor and see what they want to do, whether it be refunded or given to another group or government entity or the park district.” 

If the planned aquatic center were to be built, Grandcolas said she hopes WCP would “morph” into a nonprofit similar to Friends of the Morrison-Talbott Library. 

“We can continue to hold our fundraisers, we can continue to collect donations as a 501C3, and then funnel those into the park district for their pool and recreational activities or whatever governing body is running the pool,” Grandcolas said.  

Those looking to donate in other ways, such as through stocks or bonds, can contact Grandcolas and WCP Treasurer Celeste Breitwiser at WaterlooCitizensForAPool@gmail.com. 

For more information on donating, visit waterloopool.com and view the Capital Campaign packet. The website also includes information on how to donate through Amazon Smile.

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