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Group must come up with $3,750 to finance new outdoor pool study

The current outdoor pool at the Worthington Area YMCA is shown Tuesday. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — During its Aug. 12 meeting, the Worthington City Council agreed to fund half the cost of a study to explore a new outdoor pool.

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The other half would need to come from the group pushing for the facility.

“I think the bigger issue is I was just shocked that they want a private group to fund half the study when it's the taxpayers’ dollars they are using to fund the first half,” said Sally Darling, who is involved with the Citizens Pooling Together group. “Now they want us to go back to those same taxpayers and collect even more money and say, ‘You have to pitch in twice if you want this study done.’

“I was very shocked because we have been working together closely with the council and members from the YMCA and our committee all summer talking about a collaborative effort to do what’s in the best interest for the people of the city,” added Darling, “which is great, which is totally what I believe in. I think that’s what it takes to get positive things done in the community. It’s hard for us because we didn’t know the pool was going to be on the council agenda that night, so we weren’t there and couldn’t be a part of the discussion.”

The study will cost $7,500. That means the group must come up with $3,750 for the project to move forward.

“It’s an issue because where is the precedence for it? That is a question we have directly toward the mayor,” said Mike Smith, who is also part of the pool group. “Is this something you’re asking all groups or interested parties who want to do something, to pay half of it?

“I think he (Oberloh) feels like we’ve already dealt with this,” Smith continued. “The fact of the matter is, the council and the members of council who were on the board at the time didn’t do it right. You wouldn’t be hearing about this issue if it was done right in the beginning.”

Darling said it was unfair to ask for money for the study when other recent projects weren’t required to do the same.

“I don’t recall private fundraising being done for the impact study for the fire hall or the Event Center, the senior center or the bike trail,” she said. “They are all good things — I’m not criticizing those things — but I just don’t see where the precedence has been set to say, ‘If you want to look at something positive in this community, you need to privately fund the study to see its feasibility.’

“We’re asking the same group to pay twice for something. It’s an unfair burden for the people who are working to try to get something going with the outdoor pool.”

Citizens Pooling Together has met once since the council meeting and is working on another meeting this week to decide its next course of action.

Darling also questioned how seriously the council is taking the possibility of a new pool.

“I think we’re so shocked that we would have to fundraise when no other group has had to do that — that was more a sign to us that they aren’t serious about this,” she said. “To go out and take people’s money for something we don’t feel the council is seriously committed to is hard. It’s not fair to the people and that’s who we’re trying to represent — the people who feel the need for a larger pool.”

The committee is now looking to regroup, Smith explained.

“We are kind of at a standstill now because we’re not feeling like we’re getting any direction from the city on how to pursue this,” Smith said. “No, we’re not interested in funding half of it. As a taxpayer, we’ve already put our money in for that. Where is the precedence with all the other things that are going on for those groups to pay for half? Is that going to be the precedence going forward? Anybody who wants to do anything, the library group, whoever is behind that or the athletic complex, are they going to be asked to pay for half of the study?”

The group is looking for feedback on its Facebook page, “New Outdoor Pool for the City of Worthington.”

“We’re hoping to put some information out and get some feedback from them, because that’s where it all started,” Darling said.

The group is still looking at expanding the current pool at the Worthington Area YMCA, as opposed to rebuilding it on another site.

“Basically what it came down to is looking at the YMCA site as something that would be the most economical because of other amenities that are already there in terms of us being able to build a larger facility that would meet the needs and be at a rate that would be affordable,” Darling said. “Those were good meetings on how to figure out how we could do it with all three groups to put something together. Since June, that has definitely been our focus — to look at the Y site as the option.”

According to Smith, agreeing to the YMCA site showed compromise.

“We realize we’re probably not going to get this done at its own site with its own staff,” he said. “We’ve come to the realization of, if we’re going to get a bigger outdoor pool component, it’s going to need to be at the Y.”

Darling said that a new outdoor pool is still a necessity.

“The bottom line is we still need a larger outdoor facility for kids in the summertime,” Darling said. “There’s just not enough room and I think everybody agrees with that right now, for particularly those upper elementary and middle school kids. They don’t have a place to go.”