Friday, June 28, 2013

Orofino Pool Committee swimming with new ideas

A special meeting was attended on June 18, by the members of the Clearwater Community Complex Inc. also known as the Orofino Pool Committee, City Council and interested community members to visit both sites presently being considered to accommodate a new pool for the city, and to meet with Kathy Muir, the State and Federal Grant Manager for Idaho Parks and Recreation.

Clearwater Community Complex, Inc. arranged for the visit with Muir to learn more about the eligibility requirements and considerations when applying for a grant from the Department of Lands and Water.

The primary purpose of the meeting was to learn how Orofino may better qualify for a 50/50 matching Land and Water grant from the U.S. Department of Interior through the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

The other goal of the meeting was to visit the new pool’s proposed site located behind Potlatch No. 1 Federal Credit Union, donated by Lonnie and Shannon Simpson. Clearwater Community complex was anxious to hear Muir’s perspective and recommendations before actually applying for the grant.

Ironically, and within 24 hours prior to the special meeting, a second site was offered for consideration by Paul and Lee Pippenger, who had just learned the night before that the school board had accepted their bid for the purchase of the junior high building. The Pippengers had offered to the Pool Committee the area behind the gym for the pool and conversion of the old cafeteria of the school into dressing and shower areas.

In the case that the Pool committee decides to build on the old school grounds the Simpsons have graciously offered to donate funds toward the pool instead of the land. In last week’s issue of The Clearwater Tribune it was incorrectly implied that the land would be reappraised and sold to another party to benefit the pool. The reporter accepts full responsibility for the misinterpretation and promises to try harder next time to keep the facts straight.

Muir revealed that under this type of grant the pool facilities could not be connected to an existing building, which house another business, such as the newly proposed community center at the old school building. Both sites would require structures for dressing rooms and showers, and there might be a slight edge toward the first site in that it is slightly larger but no other buildings exist on the site, but that both sites could be considered under the right proposal for the grant.

After viewing both locations, everyone met back at City Council chambers to hear Muir’s remarks. There were many questions and she began by addressing the disappointment she saw in the faces of the committee members who have worked so hard for so long. She prefaced her remarks by saying she had “nothing to do with making the rules, but it was her job to enforce them.”

Muir stated that when the department was new the annual budget for the Land and water grant was substantially more, one million dollars as opposed to the amount of $440,000 received last year. It was decided that because of the budget being cut by more than half that grants would be awarded at the state level one year and at the local level the following year. The next opportunity for Orofino to apply would be in January of 2015, which is a good thing because there is much to do in the interim.

Other good news to hear was that there were not as many applicants as one might anticipate. There were eight applications last year and of those eight, five were awarded grants of various amounts.

The visitor from Boise also countered the Pool Committee with encouragement, saying that in many ways we were above the curve by having two locations to choose from, which will remain up to the Pool Ccommittee. She was aware of an obvious show of commitment from the community, and suggested ways to convince the advisory board that building a pool in Orofino is among our first priorities. A vital and second priority is to find a way to maintain it.

The not so good news is one that has haunted the existence of a pool in Orofino for a long time, and that is the lack of an owner. In order to qualify for this particular grant the owner must be governmental entity, for example, the city or county, or even Dworshak Recreation District.

Another stipulation is that the site must be designated as a Land and Water site in perpetuity, or forever. If the pool is let go and it is decided that the city doesn’t want or is unable to keep it properly maintained, the site must continue to be utilized for recreation in a manner similar to a pool. At the moment Orofino already has two sites designated as Land and Water sites, Orofino City Park and the tennis courts.

Back in the days that Orofino had a pool the city needed to subsidize its annual cost of $45,000 to operate it from the city’s general funds. The proposed operating cost for a pool today is between $60,000-$80,000.This number takes into account the wise planning of utilizing solar energy and geothermal heating in the new pool to run the site more efficiently.

Furthermore, City Administrator Rick Laam claims that there is presently a cap on the amount budgeted for Recreation, and that there are no excess funds available as it takes all of $80,000 to care for the parks we have. The city is restricted by the state the percentage of property taxes that can be used on recreation.

After taking in all the new information provided by Muir, it was asked “What a competitive application would include?”

Proof of a committed community, proof that there is a need to provide children a safe place to swim, and the supportive involvement of a wide source of agencies, elaborate the details of the proposal as much as possible, as funds collected are to be matched by the grant, and pictures - pictures can be worth a thousand words. The presentation counts for much of the board’s decision.

So it’s back to the drawing board and future fundraisers, armed with tips from the authorities in Boise, and something like a year and half before Orofino submits their application.

A word of appreciation for the ongoing efforts of the Pool Committee, on behalf of the community we thank you for not giving up.

No comments:

Post a Comment