by: JIM BESEDA - The Molalla Aquaatic Center is one of the finest in the mid-Willamette Valley, and yet the city is considerting closing it down rather than pay for its operation.They call themselves Friends of the Pool, and this newly-formed group of 30-some people may be a major force in keeping the Molalla Aquatic Center up and running.

In the Molalla Grange Hall last Wednesday evening, the group gathered for its second meeting. Most of the members had never been acquainted before, but now they are working as a cohesive organization dedicated to finding ways to support the pool. Their second meeting held a sense of urgency, purpose and planning.

Lucy Allison-Pursley chaired the meeting, and before the close of the evening, the group had unanimously elected her as its first chairwoman.

Foothills Community Church has offered the group a permanent meeting place at Main Street Coffee. The next meeting will be held there at 7 p.m. Monday, June 23. The community is encouraged to attend.

by: JIM BESEDA - The Molalla Aquatic Center is located across the street from the Molalla High School.But already, at its first meeting held in May, the group had gotten to work dividing itself into committees, each dedicated to working on a particular purpose. Those committees include: funding, formation of an aquatic district; formation of a 501c3; signs and insurance.

City Councilor Chris Cook and Molalla school board member Craig Loughridge attended, each representing their organizations. And the Friends are working with MCC on possible signage options and creating an email group for better networking.

The Friends of the Pool has three main objectives: Finding long-term funding, raising awareness and increasing patronage at the pool.

“First and foremost, we need to establish Friends of the Pool as a 501c3 nonprofit and then form a district to get a wider tax base,” Allison-Pursley told the group.

Pursley has been looking at major grants, including a big one from Nike.

“The city needs to see something from us, that we actually have a plan,” she said. “If they were to close the pool, there is still a cost to the city. That gives us all, city and Friends, motivation to keep the pool open, or it will be a lose-lose situation.”

One of the goals the group thinks they can put in place immediately is creating an awareness among the community and beyond of the pool. No known marketing efforts have been in place to increase awareness of the pool and draw in new patronage, and the Friends seem eager to get that started.

Cook suggested an easy first step towards raising awareness through signage would be to ask the school district to put meeting notices on the district reader board.

“There are a lot of people driving on county roads who don’t know the pool is here,” he said.

Russ Riggs and Paula Beck head the committee on financing the pool.

They have been gathering information from other pool districts on financials and programs offered, including the Canby Pool.

“Every five years they have an operations levy on the ballot, and so far it has passed every time,” Riggs said. “They feel good about people supporting their pool.

What we are looking for is to spread out the area for our district to bring in more pool patrons”

Riggs and Beck also visited with the Tigard Pool, Centennial School District, North Clackamas Service District, Woodburn and Stayton.

Beck said in order to proceed at all, the pool will need support from the city.

“We are trying to meet with the county to talk about whether to establish a district and how to go about doing that,” Beck said. “In order for a distict to be formed, we will need a collaborative effort because of the existing contract. And we continue to get information on how to do this.”

She said a district election would cost $11,000-$15,000.

“We would need to talk to the county clerk and talk with the Colton School District,” Allison-Pursley said. “Colton already has expressed that they are interested in working with our pool, and they are not that far away.”

Members discussed what is needed to get a levy on the ballot. Actually, they would need to put a double ballot measure out that includes formation of an aquatic district and a district levy to pay for pool operations.

They also talked about other organizations the Friends could link to in making the pool successful, such as GROW Healthy Kids, Clackamas Community College, local churches, the Chamber of Commerce or the Molalla Area Referral Group.

“We need to show the city something concrete -- that we have funding targets and a long-term goal in place,” Beck said. “It will be a long time yet before we will have the 501c3 in place, but we as a group need a core leadership.”

And right now, the group agreed, they must form a leadership structure — elect a board of directors to work with the city, school district and county.

“If we have an incredible plan and are able to present that plan to the city, they might come to the conclusion that we are more than just a group of people who care —we have a plan,” Allison-Pursley said. “You have to provide something to the city council to bring their forbearance, so that we will be able to start working on the plan.”

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