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Group suspends push for pool

WORTHINGTON — According to the group pushing for a new outdoor pool in the city of Worthington, Citizens Pooling Together, the effort has been suspended.

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The announcement was made on the group’s Facebook page Wednesday afternoon and came on the heels of the Worthington City Council asking Citizens Pooling Together to raise half of the $7,500 needed for a design study.

“I don’t like the word ‘give up,’” said Mike Smith, a member of the group. “We could get the money raised easily. Just talking it over, I think it’s what we said last time — there’s really no interest in moving this forward on the council’s part. Why waste our time? We’re all busy.

“We’re getting some pretty clear signals that this isn’t going to happen, anyway,” Smith continued. “Is it worth the fight right now when there is the library issue and the sports complex and all that? We just have to come to the realization that it’s probably not going to happen right now.”

On its Facebook page, the group said it would take a shift in community thinking.

“However, knowing what we know about how the mayor and some of the city council feel and what they say (both publicly and privately) about what we are trying to accomplish we think it would be a waste of time and your money at this point to continue trying to move forward with this at this time,” the post said. “We feel there are so many needs the community has right now such as a new school, new library, and sports complex vying for the same dollars that this may not be the right time to get this done.

“We also feel like it is going to take a major shift in local leadership to get this done,” it continued. “The negativity and the level of saying one thing and doing another from the mayor has been a real eye opener.”

Sally Darling, another group member, said continuing would hurt the case.

“We run the risk right now of doing more damage to the cause if we keep pursuing it in a vehicle that’s not productive, and that’s where we’re at,” Darling said. “I’m sure we’re going to get comments about quitting, but for us, that’s not what it’s about. We still hope at some point this community will have a larger outdoor pool.”

According to Mayor Alan Oberloh, nobody on the council was against the addition to the outdoor pool.

“We’ve never said we were against it,” he said. “We just wanted people to be aware of the cost. We showed them the way they could do it by referendum, and if people are supportive of it, we’re not road-blocking it and neither is the Y.”

Oberloh also stood by the decision to go with a bigger indoor facility.

“They could elect a whole new slate of people to represent them, whether it’s at county or city or school board. It doesn’t make things change,” Oberloh said. “As soon as the new people are there and acclimated to what’s going on, they will all have the same realization.

“We’re not against it at all,” Oberloh continued. “I’ve never been against it. First off, (the outdoor pool) is going to be open between 70 and 77 days a year. That’s a fact. For them to say, ‘What are the elementary and middle school kids going to do?’ You know what they are going to do? They are going use the (indoor pool) 360 days a year. If the pool is too expensive, there is not one kid in this community that is denied access to the YMCA for a lack of ability to pay.”

Smith said that this isn’t the total end to the outdoor pool discussion.

“We’re kind of tabling it,” he said. “It’s not something we don’t care about, but I think it’s an issue that’s going to come up again. Some things need to change before it’s going to happen. There needs to be more of a public demand. There’s going to need to be some changes in the leadership on the council before we feel like anybody can get anything moved forward with this.”

Smith said he was disappointed with how the process turned out.

“I’m disappointed in the fact that I know how much enjoyment we had with the old outdoor pool with our kids at the time,” he said. “We had a lot of great memories from the old people. The people who grew up around the area feel the same way.

“Our kids are missing out on something that we had that was so fun and great. I’m disappointed in that fact, but I’m also a realist and know things don’t come cheap, either. That in of itself was enough of an uphill battle to get it done, but when you have a mayor and council that sit there and tell people how great they think everybody should think it (current facility) is — but people don’t.”

The online post concluded with a thank you to all the people who has supported the cause.

“We don’t want to prolong the public war of words which is detracting from the real issue which is a large outdoor pool for the community,” the post said. “We would like to thank everyone who has supported this group. It has been a long process and in the end the citizens spoke up for what they believed and that is good community spirit.”