Three leaders of the splash park committee resign

ONTARIO — Three members of a volunteer committee that took the lead on creating a new water park in Ontario resigned Friday.

Megan Cook, who spearheaded the formation of the Friends of the Aquatic Center in 2016, sent a letter of resignation to Ontario city officials on Friday.

In the letter, she states that she, Shawna Peterson and Lisa Reeser have resigned.

“I feel that our committee has done as much as we can to bring this project to light and now feel that the city can carry out the plan of their splash pad,” Cook said in her letter. “I truly believe that without this committee we would not have seen the community involvement that we all went out and gathered.”

Cook declined to comment when reached by the Enterprise.

Cook, Peterson and Reeser resigned after an effort to get the Ontario City Council to change the public credit for a controversial donation.

The Friends committee sent a letter to the council Aug. 24, requesting that the city ask the owners of Hotbox Farms LLC, a marijuana company, to recognize their $25,000 donation as an individual donation by owners Steven Meland and Jeremy Breton, not Hotbox Farms. If that didn’t happen, the Friends would “encourage the council return the donation to its owners.”

City Manager Adam Brown read the Friends’ letter during a city council work session on Thursday when the city planned to address issues over Hotbox Farms’ donation.

Cook herself attended the meeting to implore councilors to change the attribution of the marijuana company’s donation to list it as a personal donation. She expressed her concerns about keeping the business name of Hotbox Farms on the splash pad’s donor list as it might have the effect of an advertisement.

Despite Cook and the Friends’ efforts to remove any mention of a marijuana business, the council decided to keep Hotbox Farms as the benefactor of the donation toward the splash pad.

In a separate letter to the city last month, Friends of the Aquatic Center explained the history behind the donation from Hotbox Farms and how the committee came to recognize Meland and Breton as the donors.

“The donation in question was secured by Marty Justus in late December 2017.  Justus told the Friends that Steve Meland and Jay Breton would be donating $25,000 to the project,” the letter stated. “At that time, it was represented that the donation was from Steve Meland and was recognized as such.”

The Friends of the Aquatic Center was formed by Cook and other local citizens in response to the closure of the Ontario Aquatic Center in 2013.

In an effort to bring back the community landmark, the group proposed a six-phase project to one day provide the city of Ontario a water park and aquatic center. Construction has started on the splash park.

Kristine de Leon: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.