Park district skeptical of pool plans


Waterloo Citizens for a Pool attended the Waterloo Park District Board’s meeting last Wednesday night to once again plead its case for a new aquatic facility in town. 

At the last meeting, WCP presented its pool plans and expressed hope for a partnership commitment from the park district to sponsor a tax referendum on the ballot and more. 

“For those who were able to attend the town hall, we discussed that our goal is to apply for various grants, some state, as they become available and at some point in the next few election cycles have some sort of referendum on the ballot as we do some more research on that,” WCP President Amy Grandcolas said. “I think (park district board member) Gina (Pfund) had requested that we be on the agenda so any type of official movement or commitment can be made by the park district to partner for those two efforts.”

WCP also enlisted the help of Lea Brinson of Mission Support to navigate grant applications and the capital campaign. Brinson said she has helped with campaigns for the Monroe County YMCA and various other area projects. 

Mission Support offers fund-raising, marketing and special project services for nonprofits.

“I’m excited to work with this group and this community to try to get the funding we need to make this happen,” Brinson said.

Waterloo Park District  Board Vice President Shelby Mathes voiced concern with the profitability of the potential pool project, citing WCP’s estimated operating costs would be between $150,000 and $160,000 per year, yet with recent weather patterns, he thought the center could only open for 56 days each year. 

“You have rain, you have lightning, you have cold days, and they say an average of 56 days is what you use the complex for. If it was indoor, it would be great, but if it’s outdoor, I don’t know how it’s going to be profitable (with the) $160,000 a year (cost),” he said. 

Grandcolas said she has not seen this 56-day figure and pool seasons are typically around 90 days. Further, her research shows WCP’s plan may be more profitable than Mathes thinks. 

“The data we had from Washington, Mo., from their city and parks department was that their recently put in pool had a 70 percent cost recovery,” Grandcolas said. “So, they recouped 70 percent of their costs this past year from users, rentals, concessions, season passes and admissions.” 

Waterloo Park District Treasurer Julie Bradley asked if there are grants that would cover operating expenses or just building costs. 

“Right now my focus has been more on the capital side as far as building,” Brinson said. “You’ll see operating expenses less and less, so it would be ideal to have a plan that does not rely on grant funding for the year-to-year operation, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be programs specific for (things like) swim lessons, people with disabilities (and) active older adults.” 

Mathes said in order to feel comfortable bringing a tax referendum to voters, it must state exactly how much taxpayers can expect taxes to increase. 

At WCP’s town hall,  secretary Eric Reinhard and Grandcolas explained bond or tax referendums may be necessary depending on how much is raised through the capital campaign.

Reinhard estimated that in the worst-case scenario (that is, if WCP had to rely on taxpayers to foot the total $4 million pool project cost 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. 

Yet, as WCP acknowledged at its town hall, this is a mere estimate. 

Mary Buettner, attorney for the park district, said having a company run these figures can come at a steep cost – about $30,000. Plus, if the company underestimates the burden, the company will in essence end up footing the construction cost. 

“The main work is getting those numbers right and having somebody run them who has some deep pockets, because if they’re wrong we’re going to be in a world of hurt,” Buettner said. 

Buettner’s legal advice was for the park district not to pay for this service. 

“We are stewards of taxpayer money … our five member board, you all have a fiduciary obligation to spend those taxpayer funds wisely,” Buettner said. “When this has been defeated that many times and we’re looking at spending big money on getting somebody to run the numbers, I don’t think that’s a good use of taxpayer funds.” 

Buettner was referring to the multiple times either fixing the old Sondag City Pool or building a new one was placed on the ballot several years ago. 

“Now, if the pool group spends enough money to pay Edward Jones or whoever ends up doing it for us, that’s another matter, but then that leads us to other concerns,” Buettner said. “If we put this on the ballot and the people turn it down, then it just makes me a little worried that when we do have to put something on the ballot that we really need money for then the public is not going to be as friendly with those kinds of things.” 

Grandcolas told the Republic-Times thatWCP is reaching out to various firms to determine the cost of drafting referendum numbers. 

Pfund wrapped up the discussion by making two motions: the first to partner with WCP to find grant opportunities and the second to partner with WCP “in looking into different ways of getting a bond referendum passed.” 

Pfund echoed WCP’s explanation of the importance of the former. 

“Some of the grants would not be allowed to be gotten if there’s not a government entity with it,” Pfund said. 

The motion died for lack of a second. 

In related news, the park district has been having discussions with HMG about increasing the showers from one on each gendered side from one to two on each side. By doing this, the bather load in the splash pad project at Zimmer Park would increase from 100 to 200.

The park district approved ordering $270,093.64 worth of materials and features for the splash pad from Rain Drop Products, an Ohio company that specializes in splash pad design and construction. They also discussed the next steps in working with Illinois Department of Public Health to get the plans officially approved. 

Since its last meeting, the park district has seen two instances of what they called vandalism at the skate park. A few weeks ago, a teen tipped over a porta potty behind the old pool house. 

“I’m not saying we have to chastise the kid who did it, but shouldn’t we make direct contact with him and tell him, ‘Hey, we know what’s going on’ so there’s an example made for them kids down there?” Mathes said, adding that while he asked around the park and did not identify a culprit, the video will make it easy to discover the individual’s identity. 

A police report was filed on the incident and video evidence has been turned into the police. 

On Dec. 6, somebody moved a porta potty off the property. 

Both incidents did not result in any damage, leaving the park district to discuss what could be done to prevent such disruptions in the future. 

Waterloo Ward II Alderman Jim Trantham, a former Waterloo police chief, said he believes the parents could be charged if their child continues to cause problems with the porta potties.

“I’d have a come-to-Jesus moment with him and his parents if it was me,” Trantham said. 

Mathes was also briefly honored for 10 years for being a park district commissioner. Waterloo Park District Board President Kevin Hahn presented Mathes with a certificate, which was met with applause. 

The park district board meets at 7 p.m. the second Wednesday of every month at Waterloo City Hall. 

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