By Louis Hoglund
The Pelican Rapids Pool Committee is turning up stones and looking under couch cushions, so to speak, in their quest for funds for a city swimming facility.
Their search for “coins” has led them to the capital in St. Paul, and the State House of Representatives–through Rep. Bud Nornes.
Pool committee members and Nornes, Fergus Falls Republican, reported at the Pelican Rapids City Council meeting July 30.
Estimated at $3.7 million to create a “destination” water facility to replace Pelican’s aging, leaking swimming facility, the pool committee is aiming for some substantial funding from bigger sources.
Nornes said he would submit the pool project as part of the statewide bonding bill, which will be deliberated in the 2020 legislative session in St. Paul. Nornes is a ranking member of the State House bonding committee.
Typically, bonding bill requests are up to 50 percent of the project cost–with the state essentially matching local and other funding sources, said Nornes.
There is precedent at the state level to fund swimming facilities–if they represent a “regional” benefit. The city of New Hope, for example, applied and received bonding money for a city pool–in part because it served a larger geographic area.
In Pelican’s case, the pool is one of only two outdoor public pools in the county. The pool has become a major factor in providing swimming lessons for the area, including populations that are under-served, noted pool committee member Amy King.
The Pelican city council voted unanimously to endorse an application for bonding money through the legislature.
In a related action, the council also agreed that the city would cover the $500 cost to set up an online, credit card arrangement to accept donations to the pool. Donations by check are also accepted at Bell Bank, Larry’s Super Market and city hall.
Committee members King, and Kate Martinez updated the city council on the pool project.
The Pelican Rapids Rotary Club also heard a report on the pool July 30.
A new pool, with water park features, not only serves youth and families in the immediate Pelican area, but regionally. With Pelican’s position in a larger hospitality-recreation market, an enhanced water facility would be a draw, said Martinez.
Further, the pool structure would be designed to accommodate campers in the nearby city-run campground–which has potential for significant expansion. The city campground also fills a growing regional lodging demand for short-stay RV and tent camping visitors. The bath house at the pool would be accessible on the north side, to accommodate campers–even when the pool isn’t open.
With these various factors, Nornes believes the argument can be made that the pool has a broader, and more regional impact, including the tourism-lodging component, that would meet criteria for state bonding money.
The pool opened late this year–again because of leaking problems. Even so, three sessions of swimming lessons served more than 130 children.
The pool served a total of 2,500 in 2018.
The anticipated lifespan of the pool, which was installed in 1978, is 35 to 40 years.
“It has been a question year to year as to whether the pool would even open,” noted Amy King, at the Rotary meeting. As far back as 2012, when the first pool committee formed, it was recommended that the present pool be closed.
There has been some unofficial support for an indoor pool, for year-round use, but the cost for such a facility was deemed unfeasible–projected at $10 million or more.