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Farmington pool plans will wait for now

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The days are limited for Farmington’s outdoor pool, and whether it will be replaced may ultimately be up to the community’s voters.

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That seems to be the direction the city of Farmington is moving after discussing a proposed aquatic center and other recreational needs at a June 30 city council workshop.

In mid-June, council members and Farmington Parks and Recreation Commission members got a look at a proposal for a $7.4 to $10 million aquatic center, which would replace the aging outdoor pool. The project was proposed for the Jim Bell Park and Preserve land north of 195th Street, in the center of Farmington.

However, several other big-ticket items have been requested in recent months. Earlier this year, the fire department asked for funding of a $1 million ladder truck. A group called Ice for Tigers is working to get a second sheet of ice at Schmitz-Maki Arena, and the city’s portion of that funding would be approximately $1.2 million.

And there is the development of the Jim Bell Park and Preserve land itself to consider. Farmington parks and recreation director Randy Distad said it would cost about $6.6 million to develop a ball field complex and other amenities identified for that site.

It was all too much for council members to be comfortable with, especially for the coming year. Instead of allocating funds to any one of the projects, or deciding to go ahead with other funding options, council members suggested a two-year plan that could end with going to voters for a bond referendum.

The parameters of any bond referendum are far from defined. A survey in 2015 could help to define both what residents want in recreation facilities and how much they are willing to pay for those developments.

A resident survey is included in the 2015 budget. The money is earmarked as a one-time expense, covered by the city’s Local Government Aid funding.

Council members have asked Distad to work with youth organizations that would use the Jim Bell Park and Preserve facility to come up with a concept that would work for the whole park. At the same time, he is to work with the Ice for Tigers group, and supporters of a future aquatics facility.

“I think it’s a good thing to step back and survey the community because ultimately, that’s what is going to impact our ability to have access to a facility like that,” Distad said, “and it’s also a property tax increase.”

Distad will work with the local organizations to come up with an overall recreation plan to present to voters in the 2016 general election. The exact amount of any bond referendum will be determined by the survey and the discussions with community groups.

“The taxpayer support would be up in the air for now. We’re not determining a number yet. The idea is we’ll be spending the next couple of years trying to refine this and look for an opportunity in 2016,” Distad said.

But the days of the Farmington Outdoor Pool are, in fact, limited. Knowing that the cost to run and repair the pool mounts every year, council members indicated they would be in favor of keeping it open this summer and next, but closing it for good at the end of the 2015 season.

That would leave Farmington without any outdoor water recreation for the summer of 2016. However, Distad said, council members did say they would favor replacing the outdoor pool with a splash pad on the same site.

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Michelle Leonard
Michelle Leonard started covering the Farmington community in June, 1994. Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the Farmington American Legion Auxiliary Unit 189, and acts as the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 
(651) 460-6606
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