Pool Fundraising efforts have begun
June 2, 2021
Fundraising efforts to build a new community pool have begun and construction plans and cost estimates are being finalized. The committee to raise the estimated $1.75 million dollars is comprised of members of the community and two city council members, whose objective is to fund the project without having to put the costs on the town's taxpayers.
So far, the fund raising effort has pulled in a little over $110,000, primarily from Rotary, 2 foundation gifts, and some local donations. Rich Jesperson, who is one of two city council members on the committee and the co-chair with Diana LaBuda, explains that the actual fundraising will take place in two separate stages. "The first part of the campaign has, by necessity, focused on going after some pretty big money with either individual donors and/or foundations that might give a major gift." When I called to interview Rich, he was in the process of filling out a grant proposal for Enbridge, Inc., which is an oil pipeline company that gives community grants. Other grant proposals have been submitted to CHS, NorthWest Farm Credit Service, and the Browning Kimball Foundation. Rich explained that the efforts to fundraise through grants is an ongoing process. "As soon as I get the specific cost estimate for the plan that we've selected, then I can begin filling out a grant for the Land and Water Foundation in the Montana Fish and Game Department. We're gonna request up to $250,000 there. But we need to match it, so we've got to raise another $150,000 or so this summer so we can have matching funds to go after that money."
The committee is also looking at applying for funds through state and federal programs. "Our engineers have alerted us that some of this Covid money, this federal relief money that the states have been given from the Federal Government, about $2.3 Billion of that has come to Montana. The commerce department is putting procedures together for applying for that money for water projects. The city is going to go after some of that money to help us with the storm drain project down Main Street, but we've also been advised by our engineers that some of that may also be available for things like community improvements, i.e. swimming pools. We're going after all those things."
The second stage of the fundraising effort will come into play once the majority of the funds for the pool have been raised. "Then, once we get closer, once we're within spitting distance, then we're going to be able to do a bunch of local fundraisers and try to focus on the people of Big Sandy and the smaller gifts. We do have about $15,000 or so in smaller gifts. We have a Go Fund Me page. People have responded to newspaper articles and sent money."
Despite being a group of private citizens who are doing the fundraising, the funds themselves are being placed in a trust account in the name of the town. The City Council has final say regarding expenditures related to the building project.
Four years ago, when the pool was voted on as a bond measure, the plan was to building the pool near the elementary in the field between the school and the ball fields. This plan has been changed after the engineers associated with the project discovered that the water table in that area is very high. Fixing the issue with the water table would cost an additional $250,000. The additional expense prompted the decision to move the primary site for construction to the square block adjacent to the cemetery. The property there is currently owned by the local school system, who have agreed to sign ownership of the property over to the town once the funds to begin construction have been raised.
Locals may have noticed the presence of flags and surveying activity in the field where the pool will be constructed. This is a part of the surveying and soil sampling work that precedes the finalizing of plans and cost estimates.
Depending on how much money is raised in the initial drive to break ground, some aspects of the project may be pushed to a future round of fundraising. This includes a splash pad for younger kids, diving board, and a slide, though hopes are high that the fundraising efforts will provide sufficient capital to build all of the elements of the pool that are in the current plan.