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Letter: Former councilman says funding request not unusual

By Mike Woll

The folks involved in requesting the City build a new outdoor pool have recently used the Daily Globe to express a frustration at the council’s expectation that they provide some funding for an initial study.

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This is not an unusual requirement. Most projects that request taxpayer dollars (“other peoples money”) are initially funded by grassroots efforts. Local examples include the frisbee golf course, the building expansion at Prairie View and the skateboard park. I could go on. Even the Event Center and the addition to Memorial Auditorium got their start at a grassroots meeting at which a few of us each wrote a $200 check. If the group has broad-based support in the hundreds of people, raising $3,750 would mean less than $10 each. This request likely represents around 1/10th of 1 percent of what a new pool would cost — not to mention the annual operating loss.

I have to disagree with the group’s harsh criticism of past efforts in building the Worthington Aquatic Center. I was part of the City Council at the time and it was with great effort that the council worked with the YMCA, college and community to strike a balance of limited resources and community desires. The result was a $4.5 million expenditure by the city and the elimination of a six-figure annual expense. While I, too, would like an outdoor pool during those 50 or 60 dog days of summer, I am very pleased that we have the facility we do for 360 days a year, not to mention the cool mornings.

I also take great comfort in knowing a kid can get a membership for the pool and other facilities for less than $13/month and, if necessary, the community donations to the YMCA Strong Kids Fund can provide financial assistance to reduce that figure even more.

If the outdoor pool group’s efforts are to succeed in generating community support and funding, it will take more then criticism in the press. It will take people giving up their evening to attend planning meetings and it will take research into what, where, who and how it can be done. To paraphrase the Chamber of Commerce slogan, “Doing Things People Think Just Happen.” Despite public perception, there is no one at the City Hall sitting on their hands waiting for something to do. In the days of tight budgets and calls for more efficient government, a request for government spending at any level should be difficult.

Good luck to the group. Your efforts to look for ways to improve our community are appreciated. While I am personally skeptical of the viability of your project, I will pledge $10 toward your fund raising effort.