Pinney Pool fundraiser is next month

Community, city still trying to work out kinks

Pinney Pool fundraiser is next monthFrom right, Ridgecrest Police Department Capt. Ryan Marrone helps fallen hero Sgt. John Pinney’s sisters Pamela (who said she had recently undergone cataract surgery) and Diana after they provided public comment advocating for the restoration of Pinney Pool. — Photo by Laura Austin

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By BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

Local group Ridgecrest Shout Outs is organizing a fundraiser next month to support the restoration of the Sgt. John Pinney Memorial Pool. The July 21 event will be hosted at Desert Empire Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to midnight and is open to the entire community.

The pool was closed early last year following a lawsuit as a result of Americans with Disabilities Act compliance issues. The city wasn’t in a position to pay for the $70,000 in required ADA compliance upgrades, in addition to other existing maintenance issues.

Chuck Cordell of Cordell Construction is just one of many members of the community who has stepped up to help get the restoration moving.

“I’m kind of doing this for the Pinney family,” said Cordell, who went to school with John Pinney’s sister, Kathy. “I want to make sure their legacy is continued on.”

Cordell said he has received dozens of phone calls from people interested in donating and is working with other contractors who are willing to donate some of their labor. But he still expects costs to be close to $500,000.

Stephen Birdwell with Shout Outs said he’s hoping the fundraiser can help keep costs down.

“I imagine we can raise a lot,” said Birdwell, who said the initial target is $60,000. “Right now we’ve collected vendor and performer fees, and sponsors have gone the extra thousand miles in donating prizes that will be raffled off.”

Birdwell said the event is free to the public, including food from local restaurants for the first 1,500 people. He reiterated that the vendors and performers are actually paying to participate and some of them are also donating a percentage of their sales.

“It is a community free-for-all, just come on out,” he said. “We’re just trying to get everyone out there.

“There will be alcohol served so we’ll be at the door passing out wristbands for people 21 and older. So we will be asking for people’s patience.”

In addition to raffle ticket sales, the group will also be accepting further donations at the fundraiser. Scott Miller recently announced that the Ridgecrest Lions Club would be facilitating all contributions since Shout Outs isn’t yet an official nonprofit organization.

Among the sponsors of the fundraiser is the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, the same tribe currently in controversial negotiations with the city to take land into trust for a casino. The tribe’s involvement in what is considered a city asset has apparently raised some concerns.

“There are so many controversial topics going on right now,” said Birdwell. “I fear we have been caught in the middle. This has nothing to do with anything other than getting the community together and getting our pool back.”

According to Birdwell, the tribe preferred to remain an anonymous sponsor, but “certain councilmembers brought them into the spotlight” when they learned of the tribe’s involvement. He added that other sponsors are remaining anonymous for fear of being seen as politically involved.

The city approved a resolution in 2005 requiring the council to vote to accept or reject any “gift, bequest, or device made to or for the city.” If for whatever reason a donation to the pool from the tribe is considered unethical by council, the donation could be rejected.

Approached for further comment, city officials declined to respond at this time.

“This isn’t about my sponsors, this isn’t about Shout Outs or political agendas. This is about a community pool. We’re supposed to be a big Navy town, yet one of our memorials to a Ridgecrest hero has been shut down, and we haven’t seen any action from the city to rectify it,” said Birdwell.

The city did put the project out to bid – the last reported repairs (not including ADA modifications) were in the neighborhood of $1 million. It was decided that the private sector would probably be able to handle the project more cost effectively.

According to Councilmember Lindsey Stephens, the city has set aside some $300,000 to use for materials and is waiting to hear more information from local contractors before it can attempt to move forward on a joint project.

She added that if the proposed parks assessment district passes, more funds could be made available.

“We’re still trying to get everything firmed up with the city,” said Cordell. “There are still a lot of things that we need answered. But we’re working on it.”

Several members of the community sporting Ridgecrest Shout Outs T-shirts – including John Pinney’s sisters Diana, Pamela and Kathleen — attended the Ridgecrest City Council meeting Wednesday night to advocate for the fundraiser.

Pamela said that her brother was very community minded and was always taking care of the children of the community. As a full-time student, he would come home summers and manage the pool on base, but he always wanted the off-base community to have a public pool.

“He was drafted when he had a four-year-old son,” said Pamela. “He decided that instead of a deferment, he should go and once again take care of the children — the children who were being drafted.

“We lost him, saving one of those young men. What he had requested, within an inch of his death, was that there be a pool fund started so that the children of Ridgecrest could cool off in the summer and have a pool.”

“We just want to make this fundraiser happen,” added Kathleen.

Story First Published: 2018-06-22