Ypsilanti needs your help… within just $50,000, we could once again have a community pool

As luck would have it, last summer, which was the hottest in Michigan’s recorded history, the people of Ypsilanti found themselves without an operational public pool. This year, though, we might actually be able to do something about it. Thanks to the heroic efforts of the Friends of the Rutherford Pool, and a great many people in our community, including the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation, which just today announced a $1,000 grant, we’re on the brink of having a having a new pool to replace the one that was decommissioned in 2011, when, after 40 years in service, it was determined that its life could no longer be extended. Close to $1 million has already been raised, and, as of right now, all we need is another $51,000 before we can break ground. (If we can raise it by the end of this month, it’s conceivable that we might have a new pool to swim in by the end of this summer.) Following is the whole story from John Weiss, the chairman of Friends of the Rutherford Pool. Please read it over, share it with your friends, and consider making a contribution.

MARK: Let’s start with the history of the Rutherford Pool. When was it built, and, what, if you happen to know, were the circumstances surrounding its construction?

JOHN: The Rutherford Pool, which is a Chesterfield aluminum-walled pool, was built in 1971. It’s named after Jesse Rutherford, the former recreation director of Ypsilanti. Mr. Rutherford was chairman of the Huron Clinton Metropolitan authority, and was the first African-American to serve on the National Recreation and Park Association Board. The location of the pool was slightly controversial at the time. Riverside Park was considered as a pool site, but sits in a floodplain. And the Little League, at first, did not want to give up the park space where the pool is currently located. Prospect Park was also considered, but Mr. Rutherford insisted that Recreation Park made the most sense, and provided the best access for all of the citizens of Ypsilanti. In the mid-1990s, a vinyl liner was installed over the aluminum framework to help sustain its life… A Chesterfield pool has a typical lifespan of about twenty-five years. With close attention to annual repairs, and the addition of the liner, the life span has been stretched to nearly forty years.

MARK: What happened last year that made you accept the fact that problems could no longer be patched, and a whole new pool was needed?

JOHN: The pool suffered from excessive water leakage and major pipe corrosion. There were also deck trip hazards, tears in the liner, leaking drains, and damage to the electric pump from flooding. And, on top of that, it’s sinking in several places. Furthermore, in recent years, unforeseen mechanical problems have resulted in several pool shutdowns. Also, the City, which had been helping to fund utilities and water, was no longer able to do so. The water bills alone were so excessive that there was no way for the pool to operate without a loss. We also have good reason to believe the pool would not have passed inspection if we had tried to reopen in 2012.

MARK: When did the campaign officially kick-off, and what was your fundraising goal?

JOHN: The Friends of the Rutherford Pool (the organization which had taken over operation of the pool in 2003, when the City of Ypsilanti de-funded its Recreation Department) had been talking about building a new pool for over five years. About three years ago, though, we got serious, and a group of volunteers started meeting monthly to figure out ways to fund the project. And, in 2011, we learned about the opportunity to apply for a Michigan DNR Trust Fund grant for $300,000. When the grant award started looking hopeful, we publically launched a capital campaign in the summer of 2011.

The pool was originally estimated at $750,000 – $800,000… Because the project needed to be competitively bid, we were not allowed to fold design services into the package. That meant we had to spend an extra $67,000 to design the pool. We’ve also been required to have a $50,000 contingency fund before rebuilding, another cost which we did not anticipate at the beginning. Finally, as the economy has improved since 2011, the costs associated with a huge capital project like this one have continued to rise. So, the project is a lot more costly now than it appeared to be when we first started our planning.

MARK: As I understand it, you just recently received bids back from contractors… What’s the shortfall between what’s been raised thus far, and the amount that will be needed to rebuild the pool?

JOHN: Four bids were submitted, and all of them were higher than expected – in the $950,000 – $1,050,000 range. One bidder proposed an alternate plan, that had a price tag of $844,000. After meeting with the City, talking things over with our architect, and discussing our options as a Board, we decided to accept the alternate bid.

In addition to the price of construction, we have the design services ($67,000), the mandatory contingency fund ($50,000), the fencing costs ($27,000) and the money that is already locked away in our endowment ($23,000).

All of these items add up to over $1,020,000. And we currently have $969,000 raised, pledged, or promised in loans (the county is providing a $75,000 loan, which will have to be paid back over 5 years). This means we currently have a $51,000 shortfall.

And the City will not let us begin the rebuild until all of the necessary monies have been secured.

MARK: Assuming the remaining funds can be raised over the course of the next several weeks, is there any chance that we might be able to have the new pool built and open to the public sometime this summer?

JOHN: There are many City and State processes that still need to be cleared (approval of the alternate plan, approval of a contract with the builder, etc.), that will take at least a month. After that, the contractors have estimated that the pool rebuild will take 12-14 weeks. Given all of this, there is no way the pool could open before the 4th of July. If things go well, we might have the pool open for a month at the end of the summer, but it’s hard to say. Given all of the challenges and steps it takes to build the pool, especially coordinating the City, the builder, the architect, and the State, we just can’t be certain what will occur at this point. I’m hopeful that we’ll have some swimming this summer in a new pool, but I just don’t know.

MARK: Last year, as we all know, the pool was closed. Do you have any indication what kind of impact that had on Ypsilanti families?

JOHN: Last year was the hottest on record. Hundreds of children relied on the pool for a safe place to recreate and exercise. Additionally, hundreds of families used the pool daily. We’ve also provided swim lessons to about 75 children each summer. Furthermore, the YMCA and other youth organizations have used the pool as part of their summer programming. All of these groups had to go without this important community asset last year.

MARK: How many people use the pool each day?

JOHN: At peak season, attendance at Rutherford Pool averages nearly 350 people daily, with some days over 500. Pool visits in 2010 totaled approximately 15,000.

MARK: Assuming the new pool is built and opened, you’ll still have to worry about maintenance costs and the costs associated with running it. Not only, in other words, do we need to get the new pool built, but we need to ensure that we have a mechanism in place to keep it in operation, during a period of rapidly decreasing government support. How are you planning to ensure that happens? Do you raise fees? Do you extend hours? Do you add classes and services, which you can charge for? Do you rent the pool out at night? Do you start an endowment? Do you look for sponsorships?

JOHN: An endowment has been set up to help maintain the pool. Currently we have $23,000 in the endowment for on-going maintenance. We also were required to present a 3-year business plan to the City before they would let us move forward on the project. Because we will have a state-of-the-art pool, we will reap big savings in energy and operation costs, and expect to net a small profit each year that will be used to pay back the County loan, and then be saved for on-going maintenance and operation costs. We did, however, propose a slight increase in pool pass and fees as part of our plan.

Additionally, because the Friends group has a management agreement to operate the pool, we can do some other activities to raise revenue (extended hours, more rentals, etc.), which will help us to stay in the black.

MARK: How, if at all, will the new pool be different from the old pool?

JOHN: The new pool will be the same shape, and have essentially the same square footage as the old pool. We do plan, however, to pull the fence out on the east side to create a bigger lawn space for lounging.

MARK: Why is this pool, in your opinion, vital to our community?

JOHN: Recreation enriches the quality of life in a community and nurtures the health and well-being of its citizens, its environment, and its economy. Specifically, the benefits of maintaining a public facility for swimming in Ypsilanti include:

· Providing affordable recreation for youth from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
· Connecting people of all ages, incomes, backgrounds, and abilities.
· Promoting physical fitness and self-improvement.
· Attracting and keeping businesses and residents in the city.

MARK: What can you tell us about the success of the brick program?

JOHN: We have had incredible volunteers on this project. One of those volunteers, Amyleigh Johnson, suggested selling engraved bricks (like in Depot Town) as a way to raise money. A couple people on our Board were skeptical about the idea, but we gave it the green light anyway.

Through that program we have raised nearly $20,000! We are not skeptical anymore.

Bricks can still be purchased for $125 and $250. Information can be found here.

MARK: Assuming people would like to contribute, how would you like for them to get their money to you… should they contribute through your website, or through the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, which, if I’m not mistaken, you’ve been working with as of late?

JOHN: It is not too late. Even when we reach our goal to start the rebuild, we still need to keep raising money to repay the county loan.

There are three ways to donate:

You can donate through Network for Good… By following that link, donors can contribute as little as $10, or as much as they like using their credit card, debit card or Paypal account.

Supporters can also click here to buy a small or large engraved brick, for a contribution of either $125 or $250.

People can also write a checks to the “Rutherford Pool Fund” and send them directly to the Ypsilanti Area Community Fund, which is housed within the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation:

Rutherford Pool Fund
Ypsilanti Area Community Fund
301 N. Main Street
Suite 300
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1133

MARK: So, when do you need to raise the remaining $51,000 by, if we want to have a shot at having the pool open this summer? What’s the deadline that you’ve set for yourself, and what are you doing to get there? I saw, for instance, that there was a garage sale a week or so ago, with proceeds going to the fund.

JOHN: The City is letting us secure the additional money ($51,000) in two phases, the first to start the project, and the second to complete fencing and a few other minor expenses. We need to have the first part of those monies committed by end of April if we want to have any chance of opening for at least part of this summer. The mount that we’d need by the end of the month, for this first phase, is $36,000 in additional cash (not pledges). And we’ve actually raised about $8,000 of that already, $1,700 of which was raised this past weekend at an impromptu garage sale.

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21 Comments

  1. Mr. Y
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Waiting for “John Galt” to show up and remind all of us that the constitution doesn’t promise community pools. In the meantime, I’ll be making a contribution. Thank you, Mr. Weiss, and all of the contributors thus far, for your efforts.

  2. Edward
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    This year is shaping up to be even hotter still. We can’t afford to lose this opportunity to have a new pool by August. We’re too close.

  3. John Galt
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Jesus didn’t have a pool. Why should you?

  4. anonymous
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    He didn’t have guns either.

  5. Elliott
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    How terrible is it that our City can no longer afford to even contribute the water to fill our public pool?

    One more question. How do the wealthy leaders of the successful Stop City Income Tax campaign live with themselves?

  6. Mr. X
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    The poor kids of Ypsi will eventually feel the cooling rain of trickle down wealth.

  7. Posted April 12, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    The SCIT folks would be welcome to assuage their consciences by donating generously, I’m sure. After all, this is the heart of their vision of our community. Everyone contributing equally through taxes for a public good like the pool is so 20th Century. Over. The wealthy contributing as it suits them (and the poor praying) is the new improved model.

  8. Posted April 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    PS: we’re continuing to give as generously as WE can, though not wealthy… And you should, too!

  9. Eel
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    We could raise a lot of money with Steve Pierce in a dunk tank, I’m guessing.

  10. karen
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    You probably throw like girls.

  11. Knox
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure that Steve Pierce and Karen Maurer each gave to the cause. Writing a one-time check for $250 to the pool, though, isn’t anywhere near what they would have contributed to the activities of our City had the income tax passed. The wealthy point to their contributions, as though the somehow justify their tax breaks and write-offs. They try to peddle this trickle down narrative in which rich people, if only they were allowed to keep more of their money, would solve all the problems of the country. They point to the museums built by the robber barons as evidence of this. And, yes, some rich people do good things. Bill Gates, for instance. I’d gladly trade all their charitable donations, though, for what, in a just world, they’d be paying in taxes. I’m sure, eventually, Steve Pierce will pipe up, saying that he’s a huge supporter of the pool, and it may well be true, but the pool is just one thing. What about the Fire Department that’s slowly falling apart, or our schools which are collapsing in front of our eyes?

  12. Knox
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Karen:

    http://i.imgur.com/5UC6h2D.png

  13. Cookie Puss X
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    All the poor kids should gather at Karen Mauerer’s house this summer.

  14. Watching Ypsi.
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Have the Color Run Pirate owners, take $50,000 of the approx; over $500,000- $1,000,000 in profit from the expected 15,000 runners participating this May 11, and hand a big check over to the pool’s cause. That really wouldn’t be a tall order for the scam artists.

    Just my 2 cents.

  15. Posted April 12, 2013 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Our friends at Zingerman’s wrote in to say that they’d be contributing $1,000 toward the cause!

    We’re getting closer.

  16. Posted April 13, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    This is a good cause. I’m happy to see it working out.

  17. Meta
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    AnnArbor.com had an article yesterday on the status of the new pool and the Awesome Foundation grant.

    http://www.annarbor.com/news/ypsilanti/a2awesome-foundation-awards-grant-toward-reopening-of-rutherford-pool/

  18. Meta
    Posted April 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    The money has been raised and construction will begin in June.

    http://annarbor.com/news/ypsilanti/ypsilantis-rutherford-pool-1m-raised-mid-june-construction-date-goal-set/

  19. anonymous
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    I don’t have a link but I heard the county came forward with $150k.

  20. Posted May 22, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    From the Ann Arbor Chronicle: “Washtenaw County parks and recreation commission (May 14, 2013): At their most recent meeting, county parks & rec commissioners voted to grant $150,000 to the city of Ypsilanti to help complete the Rutherford Pool project. ”

    http://annarborchronicle.com/2013/05/17/county-gives-more-support-to-rutherford-pool/

    Paul Schreiber
    734-277-5446

  21. Mr. Y
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Awesome news.

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  1. […] our community, over the past several years, have been working diligently to raise enough money to rebuild our City’s public pool, which was decommissioned in 2011, after 40 years in service. Well, yesterday, having successfully […]

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