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Millwood to open pool if community can raise funds

A group of Millwood residents working to save the wading pool in Millwood City Park scored a small victory Tuesday evening.

“We’re very grateful that we are given the opportunity to try and save it,” wading pool committee member Rob Berland said following a special Millwood City Council meeting to address the issue. “I think it’s a success.”

The city’s 24-foot landmark, built in 1954, was scheduled for demolition this spring because of a budget shortfall. During Tuesday’s meeting, the council unanimously approved a commitment to operate the pool, if the community can raise $10,000. City officials said the pool would not open this summer unless the money is raised.

The funds are needed to resurface and repair the pool, based on an estimate provided by Maintenance Supervisor Cleve McCoul. According to McCoul, the proposed repairs would provide approximately 10 years more use.

 “So essentially by raising this money,” committee member Bobbie Beese said. “We’re demonstrating the community does want this pool.”

To raise the needed funds, the group proposed several ideas such as adding a donation box onto resident’s water bills, corporate sponsorships, block grants and swap meets.

If the funds are raised, the city committed to paying the $9,445 annual operating cost, which includes water usage, staffing and maintenance. Mayor Dan Mork said the maintenance cost would decrease if the resurfacing was done.

During the meeting, Council heard the results from a five-member citizen committee that had been tasked with researching options for the pool and making a recommendation. The committee was formed in February after an outcry from residents about the decision to demolish the pool.

Committee member Shirene Young, who presented the group’s findings, stated the committee’s goal had been to focus on options for the pool, and what would be the best solution for the community’s children – primarily those 8 and younger.

Her presentation discussed positive and negative aspects of the pool, as well as annual operating costs, long-term cost to the city, price of an alternative water feature and fundraising ideas.

The committee report said the Spokane Parks and Recreation installation cost for a spray pad system ran from $45,000 to $65,000; with an annual operating cost of $5,000.

Following Young’s presentation, Mork opened the meeting up for discussion and questions.

Beese raised the question of possible using extra funds available in the budget, due to the liquor initiative not passing last year.

“When I look at your summary there is in fact $20,000 in there to recharge savings,” Beese said to City Treasurer Debbie Matkin. “I don’t think we need to totally recharge our savings at the expense of the wading pool.”

Matkin defended the city’s position by saying the only service the city is not required to maintain by law is park services.

“We’ve been losing money for 10 years,” Matkin said. “And this budget was cut to essential services only.”

Councilman Kevin Freeman pointed out the city needs a plan to manage operational costs before funding the pool. The city also needs a solution for providing staff on-site six days a week. In past years, the city did not have dependable on-site staff required to keep the pool open.

Council decided to research staffing options, look at the current fee structure for special events held in the park, and the possibility of using a donation box on monthly bills.

The committee plans to start fundraising right away.  Immediate plans include opening a special bank account to accept donations, along with placing a donation can at area businesses. 

“Some great ideas came out of the committee’s work,” Mork said in an interview following the meeting. “The meeting was a prime example of successful community-city cooperation and working together to achieve a common goal.”