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Shelk Foundation reaches out to several towns that built pools to learn how they did it; will share results with public

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The Prineville pool remains open but many community groups and individuals are seeking a way to replace the aging structure. The latest group to do so is the Shelk Foundation.

How did other communities manage to afford building and operating a new pool?

That is a question that members of the Shelk Foundation sought to answer recently. After collecting information, the organization is ready to share what it has learned.

The Eastern Oregon advocacy group, spearheaded by local business owners John and Linda Shelk, are inviting community members to a public meeting next Tuesday to discuss a comparison of communities, amenities and costs. The event will be held at Ron's Comfort Food Café at Meadow Lakes Golf Course, beginning at 6 p.m.

During the session they will reveal a 26-page report that includes information about the governing bodies, taxing districts, amenities and local partnerships of Oregon communities similar to Prineville that recently built a new pool. The report will also include information about the size of each community's pool and their operating strategies.

Foundation member Kristi Steber said the Shelks wanted to help restart the conversation about building a new pool by presenting the community some comparative and unbiased facts from different communties.

"They are interested in a pool because they think that is an important amenity for a community to have," Steber explained. "Through the years, they have watched all of these many, many good people working on committees and trying to get it to move forward and having a hard time really settling on a direction and decision."

The most recent community efforts to kickstart a new pool project include formation of a two different citizen-led committees as well as a completion of a feasibility study that looked at what different pool projects would cost. Most recently, one of the committees determined a change in park district boundaries would be necessary to generate enough revenue for operating expenses.

The Shelk Foundation opted to move forward without utilizing past information in an attempt to get as unbiased of a look at the situation as possible. While that is the case, they let recent pool efforts leaders as well as City of Prineville and Crook County officials know what they were doing.

"They (the Shelks) thought the best way they could help is by providing everyone with an even base of knowledge, of real facts, data and figures about other communities in Oregon that are similar to us," Steber said. "How have they gone about planning and paying for building a pool and operating it?" With the aid of a hired consultant, the foundation reached out to Madras, Heppner, Boardman and Hood River. Steber noted that the communities have a range of pools from a single outdoor pool to a full, multi-pool recreation center.

After meeting with pool stakeholders in each of the communities, the foundation developed a 26-page report titled "Rural Oregon Public Pools; A Comparison of Communities, Amenities, and Costs."

"We will present it to the public," Steber said of next week's meeting. "We will have the people from the other pools there so that they can talk. Everybody will start with the same base of knowledge, the same facts."

The meeting is expected to last about three hours. The first hour will consist primarily of guest speakers from each community sharing their experiences with building and operating a pool. The next hour, those same speakers will share some of their recommendations for the Prineville community and its pool efforts. Lastly, participants will be invited to meet in one-on-one or in small groups with the representatives of each community to ask questions.

The Shelk Foundation is hoping that the presentation will prompt community members and leaders to continue the pool effort with the help of the new information.

"We are not going to lead this. We could help facilitate it if there is an interest and an energy in the community to do something with it," Steber said. "Our hope is out of this there will be enough community interest to come together and find a direction and a way to go forward."

Sidebar

The Building and Operating Public Pools in Rural Oregon public meeting will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 20 at 6 p.m. at Ron's Comfort Food Café, 300 SW Meadow Lakes Drive.


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