Local government

Recreation district drives forward with plan to start construction on Ontario pool

ONTARIO — The Ontario Recreation District is a million dollars shy of breaking ground on constructing an outdoor pool, tennis courts, gymnasium and skate park. 

Andrew Maeda, district executive director, said that to begin renovation of the aquatic center the district needs $2.4 million in hand to start the bidding process. The total price for the project is $6.4 million. 

“We plan to close this gap in the next six months and begin construction immediately,” Maeda said in an email on Friday, Dec. 29. 

The renovation is the second phase of the district’s six-phase plan for the downtown Ontario site.  The district plans to apply for construction permits by Friday Jan. 13 and have them completed within a month.  

At that point, Maeda said, the district will be “project ready” and be prepared to solicit construction bids once the district can fundraise just under a million dollars – $950,000 to be exact. 

He said bidding would take four weeks, at which point at that point, he said, the district would move into construction, which would take approximately nine months.

Maeda said that should the district raise the remaining money within that timeframe, the new pool could open in May 2024. 

In the interim, Maeda said the district has asked the Eastern Oregon Border Board – the public body established to grow the economy – to pass a resolution to support a $4.5 million funding bill that State Rep. Mark Owens will be introducing to the Oregon State Legislature. 

Shawna Peterson, the Border Board’s executive director, said at the board’s Monday, Jan. 9 meeting that the board would review a draft letter and vote on the resolution during the board’s February meeting. 

Maeda said the district has sought and received roughly $50,000 in donations from local businesses. He said the district is also in the process of reaching out to larger businesses in the area, such as Walmart and Home Depot. Maeda said donations from larger corporations take more than a single presentation or pitch. Rather it takes several meetings and getting in touch with the right person within the organization. 

Nonetheless, he said the district is steadfast in reaching the funding goal. 

“Whether that donation is $1,000 or $100,000, he said, “we’re going to continue to reach out.” 

He said the district has over 300 local businesses they are contacting. 

Voters formed the Ontario Recreation as a taxing district in 2018, with a tax levy of 55 cents per $1,000 assessed property value. The district is a separate entity from the City of Ontario. 

Maeda said one of the district’s primary focuses had been the pool project, which the organization took over in 2019 once they hired staff and officially established the district. 

The istrict began developing plans to take down the Aquatic Center building in Lions Park and leave the pool for outdoor use in 2020. 

The district receives $324,000 yearly from property taxes, and yearly maintenance for the aquatic center before it closed in 2013 was $550,000.

According to Maeda, the pool will be the same size as the current pool, which is 25 meters long and 15 meters wide. He said it has six lanes and is 6 feet deep. Although the pool is 80,000 gallons, Maeda said, the renovation to an outdoor pool with a shade structure would add another backup tank. 

Maeda added that a smaller kids’ pool would also be on the facility’s north side in the new pool version.

News tip? Contact reporter Steven Mitchell: [email protected].

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