In less than 48 hours, several citizens have agreed to donate a total of $20,000 to keep the pool open for at least eight weeks this summer.
Since the city council decided not to reopen the pool in 2012 due to a limited budget, Kevin Herda, who has helped spearhead the cause, said many people within the community have expressed their interest in helping “save the pool.” Although Herda said the city is still discussing ways they might be able to fund it, they have already had six months to figure it out and something needed to be done now.
“This is a one year fix, it is a ‘band aid’ to help the city bridge the gap,” Herda said. “We could not sit by and watch the children in this community suffer again, we had to do something and quick.”
He said he believes people have been so willing to donate several thousands of dollars because they know it is only a one-time commitment.
City Administrator Mike Frizzell said it costs about $42,000 to operate the pool for three months each summer. The pool earns approximately $12,000 in revenue from swimming lessons and general admission, leaving a $30,000 shortfall each season.
That funding goes towards expenses such as paying lifeguards, grounds maintenance, and utilities as Frizzell said heating the pool is one of the biggest costs.
Herda said he and the other concerned citizens had been working on finding a group to support their cause for a while.When they realized that not having a pool will also have an economic impact on the community, they thought the Chewelah Chamber of Commerce would find it a good thing to support.
Chamber president Tracy Ferrell said they have heard of many people planning to go to Colville for swimming lessons, and that would take commerce away from Chewelah.
So, after Frizzell made a presentation about the costs and needs of the pool at the April 20 Chamber meeting, the board decided to be the go-between for donations and created an account for collecting the donations.
Ferrell said that if people make donations for something specific to the city, they cannot return the money if that project does not happen. However, the Chamber would be able to return all donations to the original donors if they could not raise enough money, the city decides to keep the pool closed, or they find their own funding.
Originally, the Chamber committed to raising $15,000 for six weeks of swim lessons, the busiest time for the pool, but Herda said they had such an immediate positive response that they decided to increase that goal so the pool could stay open for at least eight weeks.
The city council will vote on whether or not to open the pool at the May 2 meeting. Frizzell said the decision needs to be made quickly so they can hire the staff and budget for this new plan.
By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff