Tuesday, March 22, 2011 • Swimming pool envisioned as economic development engine

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, March 22, 2011 edition of the Lassen County Times.

Lassen County Administrative Officer Tom Stone said he will personally lead an effort to obtain a $5 million grant to build an outdoor pool in Susanville. He said swimming in an outdoor pool in the winter, such as this one at Glenwood Springs, Colorado, adds to the ambience. Stone said he believes the project will create a number of economic development opportunities.

With a little bit of luck, hard work and an expansive vision of the future, Susanville could finally get a swimming pool — and much, much more.

Lassen County Administrative Officer Tom Stone shared his vision of a new pool complex and an economic development engine with the Lassen County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, March 15 — a project he suggested could be called the Susanville Volcanic Pool and Spa.

Stone unveiled an ambitious project he hoped to kick-start with a $5 million Proposition 84 grant from the state of California that could lead to Susanville being considered “the gateway to Lassen Volcanic National Park.”

Stone said he would like to reverse the traffic flow of people going to Reno to spend money. He wants people from Reno to be coming here.

According to a memorandum Stone presented to the board, the grant process is “for the creation of new parks and recreation facilities in proximity to the most critically underserved communities throughout California.”

“We’re not building a pool,” Stone told the supervisors. “What we’re building is a community. I really want to get everybody to expand their minds and think about that.”

Stone asked the board to commit itself to the project and approve expending some staff time and money to prepare a grant application seeking $5 million from the state. Time is of the essence because the grant deadline is July 1, and technical assistance workshops designed to help governmental entities apply for the grant will be held March 25 in Sacramento, Calif. and March 30 in Redding, California.

According to Stone, the state has budgeted $184 million of Proposition 84 funds in a second round of grants. The proposition specifically mentions funds for pool construction.

Stone said he would personally lead the project, and he proposed the county form a grant writing team comprised of Larry Millar, Cynthia Raschein, Joel Rathje and Pete Heimbigner to prepare the documents to submit to the state.

“This is a competitive grant, and I want to be sure everyone understands there’s no guarantee to this, but we need to give it our best efforts,” Stone said.

An outdoor pool
Stone said a number of groups and organizations have tried to come up with a plan to build a pool in Susanville, but all have been unsuccessful.

He presented photographs of successful outdoor pools operating in the mountains in Colorado and in California.

He said the outdoor pool and spa operated by the city of Quray, Colorado and the complex at Glenwood Springs, Colorado both operate at a profit and the outdoor nature of the pools “attracts tourists and adds to the ambiance.”

He also mentioned the Grover Hot Springs complex located in the mountains of California.

He said it doesn’t have to cost money to operate a pool, and he said the pool operated by the city of Quray generates an annual profit of $211,914.

While the Susanville project would not be a mineral spa or a hot springs, Stone said the water would be heated by geothermal sources.

Stone said it’s “an absolutely critical (public safety) need” that youngsters have to place to learn how to swim. A pool could also be an important gathering place and contribute to the social fabric of Lassen County.

The county and the city own at least five acres of property in the vicinity of the old Roosevelt Pool that could be used for a new pool complex that could include restaurants, shops and spas, Stone said.

County departments using the old Roosevelt School as offices need to find new locations, and Stone said that building could be used for a variety of purposes connected to the new pool project.

In order to qualify for the grant, Stone said the county would have to hold at least three public hearings to get public input on the project.

He said there were people who “find problems to every solution,” but it was important for the community to be involved in the planning process.

District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman said building a pool was probably the number one priority of the community, and Stone’s plan has the potential to succeed.

“For the last several years our county administrator gave us 100 reasons why not to do something,” Chapman said, “and as you recall when we were going through the interview process we were looking for an administrator who would give us one good reason to get it done. I think you’ve definitely demonstrated a response to that question.”

According to Chapman many groups have tried to get a pool project completed but they’ve “always wanted to pin the tail on somebody’s else’s donkey to get it done.”

The supervisor said at some point in the future, the project may have to be run by a joint governing authority, “but we have to get the thing built if we’re going to have anything to operate in the future.”

District 3 Supervisor Larry Wosick suggested the board have a back-up plan in case this grant proposal fails. He said the project is probably too costly to be funded by civic-minded residents, and perhaps another voter-approved ballot measure would succeed this time.

Stone said he agreed with Wosick 110 percent, and he hoped the board had committed itself to the goal of getting a pool built one way or another.

The board unanimously supported Stone’s efforts and authorized his pursuit of the grant.