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Proposed grant to aid A.M. Risher Pool falls through

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The City of Linton has been denied a hoped-for $10,000 grant from the Elks National Fund, just six months before the A.M. Risher Pool must improve its access to the differently abled -- or stay closed.

"We did not get the grant," Mayor John Wilkes confirmed Monday evening during the City Council's monthly meeting.

All is not lost, however, as city officials believe the pool will still open on time -- though donations will still be sought to ensure it.

Linton's Elks Lodge 866 will still chip in a considerable amount -- $1,500 -- toward the effort, said the lodge's current Exalted Ruler Jerry McKim.

"I know that's not the $10,000 they'd wanted, but it's something," McKim said.

That money remains from the 2012 grant awarded to the city by the Elks Foundation.

Had the proposed pool grant been awarded, it would've been the second consecutive year the city received the boon.

The late Luann Shonk, a local attorney, had written that first grant application, but passed away as the second year of the grant proposal was being written.

Past Exalted Ruler Dean Miller, former Linton Mayor Patti Jones and the pool board then collaborated on completing the second year's application, vying for the pool funds.

The first $10,000 grant from the Elks Foundation paid for a new handicapped accessible playground on the west side of Humphreys Park last summer.

Around $1,500 was left from that effort, McKim said.

Organizers had hoped 2012 would be the first year of three the city received the grant.

That, however, was not to be.

Now, city officials are scrambling to ensure adequate funding exists to meet state and federal mandates which require all municipal pools comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or close.

However, City Councilman Jathan Wright, a member of the A.M. Risher Pool Board, remains optimistic the pool will comply -- and open as scheduled.

"The mayor told us to go ahead and spend the money to get the new chair lift and do the concrete work," said Wright, adding fundraising efforts will continue to raise funds for needed improvements. "I'm confident that we will be ready to open by next May."

At last report earlier in the fall, around $9,500 had been raised toward the work.

Those numbers, however, do not account for the $1,500 the Elks Lodge 866 unanimously voted last week to donate to the city from the past summer's grant, McKim said.

That brings the tally to around $11,000.

That may seem considerable, but the ADA-required chair lift alone is slated to cost around $5,000. Additional concrete work and the installation of steps in the pool, as well as training for the guards, are also necessary, along with a list of other proposed improvements to the pool.

Wright and his fellow city Councilman Nigel Lehman have been working to recruit donors.

Additional necessary work could potentially run into tens of thousands of dollars, the record shows.

Lehman previously spearheaded efforts which raised $40,000 for a new pool liner credited for prolonging the facility's lifespan.

The pool also sustained a $4,000 loss due to state budget cuts inflicted upon the pool next year.

It's also probable, Phelps said, that the pool may eventually find itself required to make the bathrooms in the bathhouse ADA compliant.

Thus, the pool board plans to budget for those renovations in the funds it will request from the city in its next budget proposal.

While the men's bathroom presently doesn't have dividers between the toilets, those can be easily corrected. The women's room may require more work, per the discussion.

"Right now we're looking at it, because while there's no real immediate burden to make it up to code, we might as well go ahead and make it up to code now and save money later," Pool Board Member Carol Phelps said in late June.

"We are still accepting donations at the utility office," Pool Board President Debbie Alsman observed earlier this year. "They can be made at City Hall. We've had several individuals donate money, but we could use more."

Other options, such as requesting local businesses buy painted bricks along the facility's walls which will be used to advertise their services, could provide funds, too.

"We are always looking for more fundraising ideas," Wright said Monday. "And for people willing to help us out."

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