Lima pool process moving forward: Lima Council to consider hiring fundraising consultant

LIMA — Despite concerns raised over funding and operation costs, Lima City Council will consider legislation at its next meeting to move forward on its share of a project that would bring a new $10.3 million pool complex to the city.

This comes after the council’s Public Works Committee met Monday to hear an update on the project, including research into possible fundraising efforts that could help offset nearly a half million dollars per year in operational deficits. Additionally, the project is also looking at a current construction deficit of $1.5 million, based on updated cost projections.

When completed, the pool would house both a seasonal pool aimed at younger children and families as well as a pool that is able to be enclosed for year-round use. City engineer Ian Kohli unveiled the current renderings for the facility at Monday’s meeting, noting how the facility would include such amenities as slides, a party room and concession areas.

“Late summer, we would plan to advertise bids and award the project in the fall,” he said. “Construction would be anticipated to begin and carry through 2024. The hope would be to do a soft opening in the winter of 2024 to see how everything operates and to do the grand opening in the summer of 2025.”

A solution that was proposed for addressing concerns over operating costs involved creating an endowment, ideally at $7 million, to be set aside to generate interest which would be used to close any gaps in funding. Consultant Jacque Daley-Perrin conducted interviews with 24 potential sources of donations and expressed confidence that, based on those interviews, $3 million to $3.5 million could be raised based on the level of interest. Mayor Sharetta Smith also said that some anonymous donors have also come forward to contribute to covering costs.

“That’s only based on talking to 24 people,” she said. “What’s out there could be even higher.”

Seventh Ward Councilor Jon Neeper expressed reservations over committing city funds to a project already in the red.

“I’m leery about committing to a project that’s $1.5 million in the hole and not knowing where the funds are coming from,” he said.

Other council members in attendance expressed confidence that any shortfall could be met.

“I just don’t believe that Lima people will let Lima down,” 5th Ward Councilor Jamie Dixon said.

“The city has done an excellent job of being good stewards with its money,” 3rd Ward Councilor Carla Thompson said. “But the residents don’t see that the budget is balanced. They see that we don’t have a pool.”

The ordinance that council will consider at its next meeting will involve committing $1.7 million to hire a consultant to help create a fundraising campaign for the endowment and begin work on constructing the roof enclosure for the pool. For 4th Ward Councilor Peggy Ehora, it comes down to making Lima a more attractive place to live.

“It’s progress,” she said. “It’s doing what other cities our size have. We’re seeing all the progress in the city downtown and around, and this is one more piece of it to make this a place where people want to live.”