Park district to receive $90,000 toward splash park creation

Mayor Joel Fritzler said the city will receive something it has waited on for nearly 40 years: a pool for all.

“This is the city of Carbondale supporting the community of Carbondale for a project that has been wanted and needed for years,” he said.

The city made a $10,000 donation after the Aug. 7 council meeting where Fritzler proposed Carbondale pledge a $100,000 donation for the Super Splash Outdoor Aquatic Center. The money will go toward the $900,000 the park district hopes to raise locally to receive a $2.5 million state grant for the splash park’s construction.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council discussed whether it was a good idea to give the additional $90,000 despite it coming from hotel/motel revenue taxes.

The $90,000 will be implemented over a three-year time frame where the park district will receive $50,000 in fiscal year 2013, $20,000 in FY 2014 and $20,000 in FY 2015.

The council deliberated the matter and tried to reach an agreement everyone could support.

Councilman Chris Wissmann said despite some people opposing the fund allocation, a donation now could equal multiple revenue influxes later.

“This is such a small amount of an investment compared to the return that we will get if the park district is able to raise the rest of the matching funds,” he said. “I can’t imagine anybody would object to this on any level.”

However, some council members were not as convinced.

Councilwoman Jane Adams wrote in her blog about numerous people who are against the funding and commented on those who believe the donation should not be taken directly from hotel/motel revenue taxes. Adams said even if the council decides it would be in the city’s best interest to donate the funds, there should at least be more time given to the park district to make sure a $300,000 state grant has been received.

“I’ve seen no rationale for the city making this large commitment of tax funds this early in the park district’s fundraising campaign,” Adams said.  “The park district does not yet know if it has received the crucial $300,000 grant it has applied for from State Tourism.”

Adams said citizens are concerned about the pool’s maintenance. She said she would like to see support from Carbondale’s citizenry before the city contributes any more funds and use the extra $90,000 instead as a challenge to residents to raise funds for the park district as well.

Councilman Lee Fronabarger said in light of the dinner fundraiser held Aug. 2 at the Civic Center, there is enough support for the park to justify the funding.

“There was like over 500 people at the (fundraiser) at $40 a plate, so it’s obvious people are enthusiastic about this,” Fronabarger said.

The aquatic center will also create more jobs for students over the summer as well as raise revenue with events such as swim meets, which can bring in close to $500,000 in one weekend, he said.

Four citizens, including Kathy Renfro, executive director of the Carbondale Park District, and Harvey Welch, president of the park board, gave their opinions of the matter. Thoughts were split down the middle with two citizens for the distribution and two against it.

The citizens who opposed cited the possibility of raised taxes in response to the splash park’s creation.

All council members except Adams voted in favor of the fund allocation.

Councilman Don Monty said although he is in favor of the funding, he wants to make sure the park district supports itself even if it incurs unforeseen expenses that would result from the project’s completion.

Fritzler said the total $100,000 will go toward funding and unforeseen expenses, so he believes the plan will be flexible for such circumstances.

Fronabarger said  a 24-hour swim-a-thon will be held from 6 p.m. Sept. 21 to 6 p.m. September 22 at the Life Community Center pool to help raise additional funds to go toward the needed $900,000 to create the center.

The council also discussed and finalized the proposed parking fines at Tuesday’s meeting.

Fines will be raised from $3 to $7 for a meter fine, $7 to $10 for a no-park-zone fine and $100 to $250 for illegal parking in a handicapped space.

With a 7-1 vote, all council members except Wissmann were in favor to raise the fines.

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About Austin Flynn

Austin Flynn can be reached at aflynn@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext.252.

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