CLEARWATER TRIBUNE HOME

JANUARY 21, 2010

Clearwater Community Complex update

By Dr. Dennis Harper

   The Kiwanis Club members of Orofino spearheaded the organization of the Clearwater Community Complex in July of 2001. A Central committee of approximately 60 people spent four months considering a site and elements that were needed and wanted by the community for the project.

   This organization formed a tax free, 501 c(3) Corporation with its own Board of Directors in October of 2001 and there have been meetings and changes of board members from 2001 through 2008. Numerous fundraisers have been completed and several websites have been created. The current site address is http://orofinopool.com.

   Consultants have been hired to help with evaluating grants, developing plans for a complex that would include a pool, and determine the feasibility to operate in Clearwater County. We have previously hired Don Carey from Seattle, WA and Gary Leva from Spokane, WA. We had a professional group from Seattle to do the county wide survey. We had a group out of Boise that had some national support. Volunteer consultants have included Cheryl Weixal with the complex in Plummer. After several years of hiring and using the consultants we were able to extract a considerable amount of information.

Community survey

   The efforts of many years of working have led us to where we are today. We found from a community survey that the majority of households did not want to pay increased taxes; therefore one of the committee’s initial goals was to have the pool and complex not increase taxes for households in Clearwater County. Neither the Orofino City nor Clearwater County governments have the funds to subsidize a complex or pool without raising taxes. We did find that many people are in support of a complex that would include a swimming pool with some areas for extra community use, such as a performing arts center and a public meeting place.

   When we researched the opportunity for grants it became very clear that most funds were available for building everything but a swimming pool. It would have been much easier to get funding to build a performing arts building or a gymnasium. We found no grants for continuing operation of a swimming pool or complex. These discoveries lead to the major problem of funding the long-term operations of either a complex or swimming pool.

   Further evaluation has shown that a swimming pool loses money every year without some external funding. The theory behind building a community complex was to generate funds that would offset the negative cash flow from a swimming pool. The committee also held some discussions with representatives of the Nez Perce Tribe but was told they had no money for this type of project.

Skateboard Park

   It should be noted that we had numerous conversations with a group of parents representing some skateboarders. We had offered part of the property on the complex property to the skateboard group. After several meetings it was found that the group was very willing to help build an area for skateboarders but had no interest in helping manage the ongoing operation.

   Our scoping found that the community was very willing to volunteer with building materials and labor to build either a swimming pool or a complex. We have met with Avista, the City of Orofino, Idaho Correction's, and major suppliers and contractors who are willing to provide substantial assistance in the process of building and maintaining some of the components in the complex.

   This then led to the next problem of managing the construction process. It became very apparent it would take a full time person versed in construction, management and finances. We could see it would take months to assemble a program that would include only something as simple as an outdoor pool. The challenge in building an outdoor pool would be management, ownership, insurance, program planning, what size pool do we want, and who would subsidize it when it does not pay for itself? Do we want a project started that is left half finished? It is important that if someone starts this project there has to be a plan as to how it is going to pay for itself before it even starts.

Community Complex funds

   To date we have $14,000 left in the Community Complex account. Over $8000 was collected from the sale of tiles. This money will be refunded if the process does not continue. It should be noted that we have many people in the community that have made yearly pledges of money to help support the complex. It is also very important to recognize Lonnie and Shannon Simpson for their very kind donation of five acres on Orofino Creek for the complex site.

   Over the past two years we have been working with a group from Boise and a large national organization that were very interested in helping fund the initial start up and operations of a complex. After working with them for more than six months, we found that they were more interested in working in the Boise area than in Orofino.

Economy

   Last year saw a dramatic downturn in our national and local economy. With our unemployment rate at nearly 20% it is hard to assess the community to fund a negative cash flow program. If the pool program were forced on the city it would only force them to increase taxes or decrease other services.

   We truly believe that the benefits of having a complex with more activities for all ages in the community would be a great asset. All of us on the board and committee are willing to work with any members of the community who are willing to commit to completing a project that we can afford to build and operate without putting undue stress on taxpayers. Over the last eight years we have had many people make promises and not be able to follow through or produce results.

Talk is cheap

   Talk is cheap until you are the one who has to make good the words. We challenge any person, who has the ability, to take the ball and run with it. We have yearly board elections and in the paper next week will be the 30-day announcement for elections. All seats on the board will be up for election. People who are willing to act instead of just talk can file for these positions by March 1. The Clearwater Community Complex Committee is willing to help in any way possible with the future of the pool and/or complex.