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Letter: Current pool facilities a result of much effort

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opinion Worthington,Minnesota 56187
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Letter: Current pool facilities a result of much effort
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

By Alan Oberloh, Mayor, City of Worthington

After reading the Aug. 21 Daily Globe article about the proposed new outdoor pool and the subsequent letter to the editor on Aug. 22, I thought it was necessary to respond. The Citizens Pooling Together group brought forward the request for a larger outdoor pool forward; now it is unwilling to raise $3,750 toward another study. It makes me wonder exactly what the support is for a new “large outdoor pool” facility.

0 Talk about it

The city of Worthington has had many studies done for various projects, and we try to collaborate whenever possible. One distinct difference here is that we have studied the pool issue extensively. It was researched for 10 years by previous councils and YMCA boards. After many meetings, studies and design issues, it was determined to build a year-round pool for the citizens of Worthington. The value of providing year-round swimming opportunities outweighed building another outdoor pool, which was open an average of 77 days a year. If we had built an additional outdoor pool facility, consider this — it would already be closed for the season, aligning with the start of the school year, or earlier.

Locating the municipal aquatic center at the YMCA and college is an excellent collaboration, as they provide professional staff and programming that benefit the community. I personally believe we built what the community was looking for, and I don’t regret the decision.

When council first heard complaints about the pool, they were more about the lack of outdoor seating area for parents and lack of green space. Now the request has grown for a large pool, two diving boards and additional amenities. I do not have a problem with the thought pattern of the new pool group, but I firmly believe the city has gone above and beyond in providing swimming opportunities for the community.

Ms. Darling told the Daily Globe the indoor pool just isn’t big enough. It is larger than the old one. She also stated there isn’t a place for the elementary and middle school kids to go. Wow! I argue that point. We now have more ability than before to keep kids active with year-round aquatic opportunities instead of just 70-plus days a year. As for comments by Mr. Smith that the mayor and previous councils didn’t do it right when building the indoor pool and new aquatic center, when discussions began on replacing the old pool, a great deal of community input was received. Consultants provided costs and designs that were reviewed by all interested parties, and decisions were made. When a collaborative effort was first discussed, the city was looking at providing $100,000 per year toward a new indoor pool. Ten years later, it was $4.5 million and a considerably larger pool.

Do I believe we could provide some enhancements to the new aquatic center? You bet it I do. It would involve moving the fence out to allow for more seating for parents wishing to watch small children or to sunbathe. I also would support exploring a way to provide a secure outdoor entrance if deemed necessary.

I am not opposed to a new pool component. I just think Worthington should be proud of the facility we have — and the public should know the costs to them of a new pool.

Using the target costs of the $2.6 million for a new lap pool, separate entrance/bathhouse, diving boards and two slides and sun deck the supporters of an outdoor pool suggest can be done, our tax levy would increase by 13 percent. For a resident who has a home valued at $150,000, that would translate to approximately $110 per year to your tax bill for 20 years. Similarly, a $300,000 commercial property would be looking at roughly $385 per year for the same 20-year period. After the 20-year period is over, that doesn’t necessarily mean the levy would go down because of the unknown maintenance issues of a 20-year-old pool.

Last, to the Citizens Pooling Together group, please stop by my office. I would be happy to give you a donation toward the study.