Local pool, skate park, track projects may seek RIB funds

Local projects, such as the proposed new pool, may be able to find funding through “Needs and Issues” grants.

There’s a strong consensus that the community could fund two projects through this process, Tracii Hickman told representatives of three projects at a Community Foundation meeting on Oct. 17.

The money is potentially available through the Rural Investment Board, which looks at projects in Linn, Lane, Benton and Lincoln counties. If the projects do not receive funding there, government agencies also will review the projects for potential funding through other grant sources. Projects are ranked by cities and then at the county level according to priority.

The project groups, including a coalition of pool users, School District 55 representatives for the track and Kiwanis pursuing the development of a skate park, met last week to update each other on their progress and talk about potential funding sources. The Sweet Home Community Foundation is assisting the projects with tax-deductible accounts set aside for the projects.

Among the projects, Hickman said that a Sweet Home Facilities Master Plan, supporting the skate park and the pool, and track construction funds might be available through this process. The key is to show the economic development the projects would provide for the community.

The proposal to develop a Master Plan would include a feasibility study, engineering and geo-technical report. It would involve a community-input process.

The plan, if funded and developed, could be a leverage needed to secure funds from larger foundations, Hickman said.

With the track, most of the engineering is complete, and the community would be asking for funds to construct a new one, Hickman said. The community may not get all of the money, but shortfalls could be covered through other funding sources.

The projects need to be tied to economic development to receive Rural Investment Board funding, City Manager Craig Martin, who is on that board, said. He suggested that school officials find out what the impact of hosting track meets and other activities have on the community economically.

The existing track is deteriorating, with all of the rubber on the inside two lanes gone and the base cracked and broken. The School District has been looking for ways to rebuild it.

Also, the more community groups that are involved in a project, the better chance it may have for funding, Martin said. “They feel they’re getting a bigger bang for the buck.”

The groups updated each other on their specific projects.

The Kiwanis want to get the skate park project going, Kiwanis President Clint Sturdevant said. They would like to set a timeline.

If funding for the facilities plan is awarded, the feasibility study could be going by March, Martin said. Then the project would have something tangible to use, including a geo-technical study and a probable site. That could be used to leverage additional funds.

“I would guess that the timeline is not going to be comfortable with the Kiwanis and some Rotarians, but it does provide structure to the process,” Community Foundation board member Rolf Anderson said.

District 55 Supt. Bill Hampton and Sturdevant said that a list of possible sites for the skate park has been narrowed to three potential sites.

The Community Capital Aquatics Project (CCAP), a coalition formed from a number of pool user groups, reviewed its status.

“There’s a large community support for the pool, quite large when you consider missing five to eight votes,” CCAP President James Mellein said. A new pool was a part of a bond election that narrowly failed in May.

Recently, CCAP Vice President Rich Birky met with the school board, which pledged its support to pay half the maintenance and operation costs for the new facility. Birky received the same pledge from the City Council earlier last summer.

To address concerns about city and district tax funds used to pay for operation and maintenance costs, Mellein said the new pool would have some sort of fee for out-of-town users.

The school board wants a timeline for building the new pool so it coordinate its own reconstruction of the high school, likely to begin in summer 2003.

The project was originally estimated at $2.8 million.

CCAP is considering a potential location, Mellein said. Developer Dan Desler has offered to partner with the group to construct a pool as part of his resort project along the South Santiam River. CCAP has some concerns about siting a pool so far from the high school, but it has not closed the door on the idea.

The School District is trying to develop a list of persons that have been involved in the track program at the high school and looking at a possible one-to-one match through a foundation.

The district has raised some $11,000 toward the project so far and is seeking in-kind donations.

The fate of the tennis courts, which also were a part of the bond request in May, depends on other things around the construction of the high school, Supt. Hampton said. The district will need to decide what will happen with the soccer fields and where new parts of the high school are constructed.