MAC borrowing up to $450,000
The Madras Aquatic Center Recreation District is borrowing up to $450,000 from Jefferson County and considering several new or expanded revenue sources as it hammers out a budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The district borrowed $200,000 from the county in May, to use for general purposes, and is looking to borrow up to $250,000 for a major remodel and fix of the bathrooms.
While the MACRD works to get its finances on a firmer footing and accomplish much-needed maintenance on its facility, it is also receiving negative feedback from longtime pool users over how the pool is being operated.
The MACRD Budget Committee held its third public meeting Monday, May 13, in the aquatic center's community room and will meet again next Tuesday. The budget meeting was followed immediately by a MACRD board meeting.
Three members of the public attended the budget committee meeting, with a few more trickling in toward the end as the meeting wrapped up and the board meeting began.
About 19 pool users showed up seeking information about the future of the swim team, the reason the aquatic center no longer provides swimming lessons for all the school district's third graders, and the reduced lifeguarding and front-desk staff at the pool.
During the audience participation period, Richard Affeldt asked about former aquatics Manager Tim Nelson, who until recently coached the MAC's swim team. Nelson resigned around the time the budget committee was considering a proposal to eliminate the aquatics manager position and reduce the district's subsidy of the swim team.
"He's been a good coach, it seems like. He's a good asset to the community, in my opinion. I don't understand what his status is, if he's completely gone as a coach, if he's resigned or if there's some sort of a plan to bring him back in a coaching role," Affeldt said.
MACRD Executive Director Jim Weyermann responded that there are no hard feelings between him and Nelson and that he would be open to rehiring Nelson.
"There's a lot of conjecture and misinformation about what actually happened," Weyermann said before board Vice Chairman Greg Tippett, who was running the meeting in the absence of Chairwoman Jinnell Lewis, interrupted to say that it was not appropriate to discuss a personnel matter in a public meeting.
Michele Gemelas used her allotted five minutes to make a plea for better communication with the public. "You need to go to Kiwanis. You need to go to Rotary. Please be out there. Put stuff in the paper and let folks know what's going on."
Several speakers referenced the fact that the district is no longer providing swimming lessons for all School District 509-J third graders as well as a recent conflict between the MACRD and the Kids Club that resulted in Kids Club temporarily busing members to Redmond to swim.
Weyermann explained that the school district canceled the swimming lessons for third graders, not the MACRD. He said he and the MACRD board of directors had asked the school district to reconsider and that he has not given up on resuming the lessons in the future.
Weyermann also said that the MAC and the Kids Club have worked out an agreement on a reduced rate for Kids Club and that Kids Club has not been taking kids to Redmond for some time now.
In response to Nancy Richard's comment that she hadn't seen as much of Weyermann as she had of past MAC directors, Weyermann said, "You're right. We should have an open meeting. I should have called one earlier. Absolutely right, and I'm going to do it tomorrow. I'm going to set a time because you're absolutely correct."
When asked by one of the audience members for clarification on the open meeting, Weyermann said, "I'd love to be able to sit down and talk to anyone in here. I don't approach people when they're at the pool because I figure they're doing what they're doing or they're with their family. But of everyone in here, aside from Nancy (Richards) and some of the people in the back, nobody's knocked on my door either, so we need to change that and it's my job to do it and I'm happy to do it."
Only one person, Steven Reed, signed up to speak during the budget committee meeting. Reed identified himself as a former construction consultant before cautioning the board regarding a proposed loan from Jefferson County that will be used to remodel the aquatic center's bathrooms.
The MACRD plans on borrowing as much as needed, up to $250,000, to pay for remodeling the aquatic center's bathrooms, which Weyermann says is long overdue.
"We've had some major issues with the wall panels in the men's and women's bathrooms. Water is getting into the infrastructure," Weyermann said. The water is from leakage and condensation from the pipes inside the walls.
The amount of the loan is not yet known because the district is still collecting bids. The amount will be determined once all the bids are in and one is approved. Reed advised the board to borrow enough to cover the cost should the damage inside the walls turn out to be worse than expected.
Weyermann credits County Administrator Jeff Rasmussen with the idea for the loan, which has a five-year term and will cost about 3% interest. To pay off the loan, the MACRD will pay $54,000 a year from its operating funds for five years.
"It helps us a lot. We couldn't do the fix without their help. It was Jeff Rasmussen who came up with a funding strategy that actually kept all the money in government," Weyermann said.
The work will be done while the pool is shut down for its annual maintenance period in September. Weyermann expects it will be complete by October.
The loan for the bathroom remodel is the second of two separate loans the MACRD will take from the county.
The first, approved by the county commissioners on May 1, is a $200,000 operating loan from the county that will be available as needed between now and the first of January.
Weyermann expects that this fiscal year's money will be used up by September, when next fiscal year's tax revenue is just beginning to come in, and that's why the MAC will need to borrow. By January, the bulk of the district's tax revenue will have been received and the MACRD will be able to repay the county.
Throughout the budgeting process, the committee has considered several proposals made by Weyermann to raise revenue and bolster the MACRD's operating funds, including installing a basic fitness room, putting in a concession stand, expanding facility rentals, increasing merchandise sales, contracting with a grant writer to bring in more foundation money, and selling advertising space on the aquatic center premises.
Discussion during the May 13 budget committee meeting revolved around whether the revenue projections for the proposals are realistic or whether they should be revised downward and offset by cuts in other areas.
As time ran out, the committee decided to meet again before voting to recommend a budget to the MACRD board.
Despite the challenges, Weyermann remains optimistic about the MACRD's potential.
For one thing, participation has been increasing in the MACRD's out-of-water activities. "We focus always on the problems and we rarely talk about the successes," Weyermann said.
"We had a record December in the history of the MAC and we had a record March in terms of revenue generation from visitation in a combination of pool activities and out-of-water activities. We're up a little over 15 1/2% in total participation in out-of-water programs. That's our winter basketball program and our current flag football program," Weyermann said.
Weyermann also sees an opportunity to raise revenue by hosting as many as five, or even 10, Little League and soccer tournaments at Juniper Hills Park per year.
"I have never seen a complex as good as Juniper Hills — ever — for outdoor baseball and soccer tournaments. The concessions, the RV camping, the movie nights, the cross promotion to the MAC for the kids to come over and swim. This is a great opportunity," Weyermann said.
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