Cities finding difficulties funding pool projects

Published: Jun. 4, 2023 at 10:29 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Kennedy Park is the former home of the Canton City Pool and it may soon be the future home of a new one.

The park used to be the place where children in Canton played and cooled off in the summer months. The former community pool had to be demolished.

Built in the 1950s, it was already in poor condition and a committee was created five years ago to replace it. Since then, a fire broke out at the pool that went into the mechanical building.

“We closed the pool down and excavated it because it was a danger,” said Canton Mayor Sandi Lundstrom.

Kennedy Park is the site that the committee has plans for.

“We’re going to move it further west. There was a play station over here that was slated to be removed and replaced because it was old, so we just tore that out and put a new one up over there,” said Lundstrom.

Their plans have changed because costs have risen by millions of dollars. Canton has had to get creative to find funds. A new plan to use municipal garbage collection has received mixed reviews from the public.

This is not a new idea. They noted that many other communities do the same and most residents even save money on monthly bills.

Still, they can’t get bids from garbage companies until a new city ordinance passes. It will be voted on by the city commission on Monday night.

“To know the exact numbers, we have to get the bids from the garbage companies first so we can set that dollar amount,” said John Ripley, the Canton Pool Fund treasurer.

They’re trying everything they can to give the kids in Canton a place to swim.

“We’re committed to this until it gets finished,” said Ripley.

Ripley and Lundstrom say that the bidding process can save money for residents because by looking at estimates of how much their residents currently pay for garbage collection and looking at averages from surrounding communities that use garbage pickup to raise funds, there’s a difference of nearly twenty dollars per month.

“Look at the profit they’re making. If that company can make money on each house at $20 a month and you’re paying them $40, that’s twenty extra dollars that are going to somebody else’s vacation home that we could be using here in Canton to help with special projects,” Ripley explained.

There are still remnants of the fencing around the former pool and the lawn where the pool once was has not been able to grow much grass.

Ripley and Lundstrom say that the municipal garbage collection idea could even be used to fund other projects when the pool is paid for.

“This source of revenue is not just a pool thing. It happens to be that the pool committee is the one who recommended it. There are other projects in town that could benefit from this, also,” Ripley said.

Lundstrom said that on Thursday she attended a meeting with every mayor in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties and all of them cited issues with rising costs of construction projects. Due to those rising costs seen for construction, the plan for the new pool in Canton has been downsized slightly.

They are taking one swimming lane off of the first drawing of the plan.

“Had we not been delayed on bidding out our pool and run into the cost problems that we’re having, this pool would have been operational now,” Lundstrom explained.

Mayor Lundstrom took time to address multiple concerns that they’ve heard from the public. She says that many are concerned that a garbage collection fee would be added as a tax or that it will be a surcharge that would increase monthly billing, which she says is false.

Lastly, the committee has heard complaints from residents saying that this issue needs to be addressed with a vote. Lundstrom and Ripley say that by state statute, this is not an issue that residents would get to vote on because it isn’t taxes.

To save on costs, the city will be paying for and building the mechanical building for the pool project themselves instead of bidding that out. They also received a grant from FEMA to build the bathhouse for the pool project because the bathhouse is set to be a FEMA-approved tornado shelter.

Ripley explains his motivation for getting a new pool in Canton by telling two stories. He says that he grew up in a town that didn’t have a pool, so he and his friends would resort to riding their bicycles to the nearest stock dam to swim. He wants to give kids an option he didn’t have.

He also recalls when a woman holding a two-year-old child came up to him at a church event to thank him for being on the pool committee. He responded with, “I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing this for this child you’re holding in your hand.”

Donations for the pool building fund can be sent to Canton City Hall. The funding is 501(c)(3), which is tax-deductible.