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Pool supporter hoping voters 'Dive In' to their cause

Supporters of the Mitchell aquatic facility are making the rounds in an attempt to stir up support for the Dec. 8 special election. Scott Fossum, who has two children in the Mitchell Aquatic Club, spoke to about 25 people at the James Valley Comm...

Supporters of the Mitchell aquatic facility are making the rounds in an attempt to stir up support for the Dec. 8 special election.

Scott Fossum, who has two children in the Mitchell Aquatic Club, spoke to about 25 people at the James Valley Community Center on Friday to encourage Mitchell residents to vote and answer any questions attendees may have about the project.

Fossum handed out door hangers and spoke briefly about his reasons for supporting the project. He assured the audience that the proposed facility, featuring both a competition-sized pool and a leisure pool, would not shut down when the MAC needs to practice and spoke about the proposed project costs.

Dorothy Sattler, who attended the discussion, said she will be voting in support of the pool referendum.

"It's a long time coming," Sattler said. "We should have had one a long time ago."

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Sattler said the MAC currently does not have access the quality practice facility she believes the club deserves.

Sattler also believes many children do not want to play football or basketball or other team sports, so a new aquatics facility would give them a better opportunity to try swimming.

A few tables over from Sattler sat Jerry Bruning, who also supports the pool. Bruning represented the minority at his table of six, with the other five in opposition of the pool. But Bruning stood behind the project.

"I think it's a good thing for the city," Bruning said. "You're going to increase the amenities the city has and give people a reason to stay here."

But Bruning's table mate, James Engman, wasn't buying what Fossum was selling during the Friday discussion.

Engman doubted Fossum's claims that the project would bring no new taxes.

"I think our taxes are high enough and I think they can scratch that off," Engman said about the claim on the pro-pool door hangers claiming "no new taxes." "How can they spend money and not raise taxes?"

Although Engman doubted Fossum's claims, the city already approved the funding sources for the $8 million facility, none of which would raise taxes. The project would utilize about $4.8 million in surplus city funds, $750,000 in community project reserves, a $500,000 long-term note payable from the Mitchell Area Development Corporation and $2 million in lease purchase obligations.

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But opponents of the plan have questioned the city's ability to recoup its funding commitment regarding the lease purchase obligations. At Tuesday's special election forum, opponents Steve Sibson and Ed Potzler wondered why the MAC, which has pledged $1 million to the project, has not been forced to enter a written agreement to guarantee payments.

The additional $1 million will be paid by a business improvement district which will impose a $1 tax per nightly room at Mitchell's hotels and motels.

Pool project facts

The City Council has approved a pre-design of the facility, which will include a 75-feet by 82-feet lap pool, a leisure pool, lockers, additional parking and a slide. But the final design has yet to be approved, according to Parks and Recreation Director Dusty Rodiek.

Rodiek said recently there have been a few frequently asked questions from Mitchell voters.

For the final design, if the project is approved, Rodiek said a design group consisting of city officials, aquatic exercise instructors, members of the MAC and some of the general public will have the opportunity to provide input.

Rodiek also wanted to clarify that the general public will not be required to have a Mitchell Recreation Center membership to use the pool. The Recreation Center currently offers day passes, which will remain an option if the pool is built.

While some have questioned pool accessibility when the MAC is practicing, others have expressed concern over the expected operational costs of the proposed facility.

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During the pool forum, Potzler claimed the annual operational costs of the facility would be about $120,000. According to information provided by the Parks and Recreation Department, the operational costs would hover around $86,000. At $86,000, the costs would exceed the current operations by about $29,000.

With many of the questions about the facility already answered by the city or at the public forum, registered Mitchell voters can submit absentee ballots at City Hall until 5 p.m. Dec. 7. The election will be held on Dec. 8 at the Corn Palace.

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