Splash Pad treading water

With a deadline fast approaching, the Waterloo Park District reached out to the City of Waterloo to help secure funds for a planned splash pad at Zimmer Park.

During a finance committee meeting last Wednesday, Waterloo Park Board President Shelby Mathes spoke with members of the city council to explain the situation.

Mathes said the splash pad was originally estimated to cost $801,000 when planning started in 2019. The park board was able to secure a grant from the state while also speaking with the William Zimmer Family Foundation about a possible donation.

As the COVID pandemic started and the cost of labor and materials quickly rose, the project estimate grew as well.

The park board purchased some materials for the splash pad totalling between $200,000 and $300,000 before costs went even higher.

As reported in a previous issue of the Republic-Times, the park board revealed bids for the project at its September meeting, with the lowest coming from Fitzgibbons Contracting of Waterloo at $1,534,405. This placed the total cost of the splash pad at roughly $1.8 million, and the park board has since been working to tackle a significant shortfall of over half a million dollars.

“We just now found out that we finally got the go-ahead, like, two or three months ago that we can proceed with everything with the health permit and all,” Mathes said. “So now, here we are $500,000 short.”

Mathes added that $500,000 doesn’t include additional amenities for the splash pad that would cost another $100,000.

Members of the city council present at the finance committee meeting discussed the overall state of the project in talks to decide whether or not to provide funding.

In this talk, Mathes noted an impending deadline for the bid in early November, but added that funds really need to be organized much sooner.

“If it comes to Nov. 1, we don’t have the funding, we’ll have to scrap the project,” Mathes said.

It was also previously established by Mathes that the splash pad off Rogers Street would need to have running water in order to keep the funds from an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources totalling $400,000, of which the park board has currently received half.

The committee ultimately approved a motion to recommend that the city provide the park district with $200,000 from Waterloo’s video gambling revenues that total nearly  $300,000 currently.

This would require a change to city ordinance which specifies the funds be used by the city council for beautification projects within Waterloo.

The committee recommendation included a contingency that the park district collect the remaining $400,000 in necessary funding before the city provides its $200,000.

It was discussed at the meeting – and Mathes also said at a previous city council meeting – that the Zimmer Foundation could cover that $400,000. However, Mathes also expressed that the Zimmer Foundation would be unable to donate to the park district directly, as it is a taxing organization.

Mathes has reached out to several organizations in Waterloo over the past few weeks to see if any might be willing to accept the donation on the park district’s behalf.

At the start of the finance committee meeting, Waterloo Citizens for a Pool President Amy Grandcolas voiced her organization’s willingness to assist.

“Our organization, as a 501(c)(3), does want to make sure that the city council members, the park board are aware that we are open to helping with the funding and donations that the park board is looking for if they have businesses, organizations, individuals who are interested in tax-deductible donations,” Grandcolas said.

A long-discussed future Waterloo pool, if approved by the park board, would likely make use of the same bathhouse and other infrastructure at this splash pad.

Mathes said the park board could potentially put a dent in the $400,000 through personal donations by members of the Waterloo community.

“I’ve had a couple people talk to me individually as family members maybe doing some sizable donations, but they won’t let me know for another week or two,” Mathes said.

At the finance committee meeting and the park board meeting that followed, Grandcolas further expressed willingness to participate in talks between WCP, the park board and Zimmer Foundation to reach an agreement on how to handle any possible donations.

It is currently unclear if the WCP’s assistance might have any impact on the park board putting the pool proposal on a future referendum. Neither Mathes nor Grandcolas offered a comment on the matter.

Following the finance committee meeting, Mathes voiced hopefulness that the splash pad continue as planned with the help of WCP and the potential Zimmer Foundation donation.

“I’m very, very hopeful that the Citizens for a Waterloo Pool can help us like they said they could with the 501(c)(3) trust from the Zimmer,” Mathes said. “Hopefully that’ll work out. If not, I have hopes that maybe somebody in the community sees the need for the usage of it for the citizens of Waterloo.”

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web