Community pool grant application approved

Community pool grant application approvedBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The city approved a grant application that could land Ridgecrest an $8 million community pool.

The Ridgecrest City Council and staff have been working since last year to secure up to $8.5 million of the Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Grant Program. After holding multiple public meetings to gather community input, the city selected a public pool as the best project to qualify for the competitive funds.

The original application deadline of December has been pushed to March 14, so the city has ample time to submit a completed plan.

The proposed project includes a 25 yard x 25 meter competition pool, a children’s pool, snack bar, shower and locker facilities and a multipurpose building to rent out for parties and events.

Plans include demolition of the now-defunct Pinney Pool and building at the same location.

The community at large has also urged that the city make an effort to maintain the pool’s association with the late Sgt. John Pinney — a Ridgecrest native who was killed during the Vietnam War and for whom the pool was named.

While the grant covers the initial cost of the pool, it doesn’t account for the anticipated $350,000 in annual maintenance and operation costs. If the grant is awarded, the city would be required to maintain the pool for at least 30 years.

According to Nerissa Wegener of the city’s Parks & Recreation department, anticipated revenues from swimming fees, lessons, concessions, rentals and other monetized uses would only be about $100,000 per year.

“I don’t see the money in our budget to subsidize that,” said Councilmember Kyle Blades. “Yes, we all want the pool. But we have to decide as a community if we’re going to invest in it.”

“We have to be prepared to make decisions on how to solve that revenue challenge,” said Mayor Eric Bruen. “If we even pass the first hurdle – which is receiving the grant.”

During public comment, Mike Stafford of IWV Football reminded council that the community did not support its proposed parks assessment and as a result, the city was struggling to maintain its current facilities.

“Just two years ago, we were told we couldn’t maintain the fields we have already and you doubled our fees,” said Stafford. “This seems extremely risky.”

Bruen said he agreed that it was “problematic,” but approving the grant application wouldn’t commit the city to any funds.

“We’re just giving staff direction that council is supportive of this direction,” said Bruen. “Then we have 5-6 months to solve the problem. If the community wants a pool, the community is going to have to work for it.”

Jennifer Williams, a local teacher and swim coach, supported the project and said it was a need for our youth.

“I disagree that it’s a risk, I think it will be an investment. It’s an investment in our youth and quality of life,” said Williams. “It’s going to add value to the houses, the community, everything.”

Council unanimously approved the grant application. The city will continue to hold meetings to receive public input on the project. For future meeting notices, see ridgecrest-ca.gov/257/Quality-of-Life-Committee.

Pictured: Councilmember Kyle Blades at a previous council meeting. — News Review file photo

Story First Published: 2021-01-22