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Paynesville Press - May 22, 2002

Public pool meeting to be held next week

By Michael Jacobson

A week from now, interested residents can get their first glance at the possibilities for a pool in Paynesville.

Next Wednesday (May 29) at 7 p.m. at the Paynesville Area Center, the city of Paynesville will host a public meeting about the proposed pool project. The city has contacted USA Aquatics - a consulting firm that specializes in aquatic parks - to attend the meeting, show some of the options for a community swimming pool, discuss the costs, outline the process, and answers questions.

"We're very much in the preliminary stages," explained city administrator Steve Helget. "Hopefully, (the meeting) will spur some community interest."

An ad hoc group has met three times over the past six months to discuss the pool project, which has been a goal for some members of the community for at least 20 years but has yet to materialize. The group's discussions, as well as Helget's experience with USA Aquatics from his time at Eagle Lake, has led to this public meeting. (The firm will be making its presentation at no cost.)

It is hoped that interested community members will form a committee to take charge of the project after this public meeting. This group would need to further study the wants of the community and the benefits and shortcomings of the various options.

At some point, another pool survey likely will be done. This would ask the community what kind of facility (indoor or outdoor) and what type of features (diving areas, water slides, etc.) they want in a pool.

"Its going to benefit so many people and so many people are going to use it that it only makes sense to get community interest," said Helget.

Helget has reviewed the surveys and feasibility studies done by the community group that tried to build an aquatic park in Paynesville in the early- to mid-1990s. "They did it all," said Helget. "They were very, very organized, and they put a lot of time and effort into it."

That effort - the fund-raising campaign was called "Take a Dive in '95," - fell short only when it came to raising donations to build the aquatic park. "They were ready," said Helget. "They had the land. They had the design. They just needed the money."

Cost will be a big factor this time around, predicted Helget.

The difference now, he noted, is the participation of the city and the township, which means the project would not have to rely totally on donations. "Generally you do get donations for a project like this because it is so popular," he said. "Lots of people would use it."

"I would hope this would be another project that the city would work with the township," Helget added.

The recent township survey showed 50 percent in support of a pool and 47 percent against, but there was no consensus on what type of pool should be built.

Another possible partner in the project would be the school district.

Having the city involved in the project should benefit the effort in several ways, noted Helget. First, the city does own four acres south of Highway 55 near the Chladek Addition, which could be a site for an outdoor aquatic park. This would save money in construction.

Also, the city has water and sanitary services, as well as administrative and maintenance capabilities.

Finally, the city already hires lifeguards for the city beach, so hiring more guards and rotating them from the city beach to a community swimming pool might work well. (A year after not hiring lifeguards for the city beach, the city has hired four guards this summer. See the separate story on page 1.)

If an outdoor pool is chosen, Helget would urged the city to apply for a Department of Natural Resources grant again, as the city recently did for the shelters at Veteran's Memorial Park. These grants are normally 50-50 matching, but the state could reduce its share in a large project like a pool, Helget said. Still, though, any state money would help the project.

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