WAUSEON -- Three years after the Reighard Park Pool closed because of its decaying condition, a local group officially has begun to raise money for its replacement after getting federal certification as a nonprofit charity.
Paul zumFelde, whose mother, Becky, pledged $20,000 last year from the estate of her husband, Henry zumFelde, said supporters of the community pool now believe they have another $60,000 lined up, including a $40,000 bequest.
"In order to maintain quality of life in small towns, we need to have some amenities, and a pool is one of those," Mr. zumFelde, vice president of the Wauseon Area Foundation and president of the "New Pool for Wauseon" committee, said last week.
But it will take a lot more than $80,000 to get a replacement built for the 1941-vintage city pool: a new one is expected to cost $1 million, and Mr. zumFelde said an additional $250,000 could be used to set up an operating endowment for the facility.
City officials closed the pool before the 2009 season after they determined it could no longer be repaired effectively.
Wauseon voters in 1998 had rejected a levy proposal to pay for a replacement.
Upon closing the pool, officials said money budgeted for its operation might instead be used to develop a "splash park" or set aside for pool construction at a later date, but hard economic times led to the money's reassignment elsewhere in Wauseon's budget.
The Wauseon Area Foundation recently qualified as under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code as a charitable nonprofit, Terry Humbarger, secretary of both the foundation and the pool committee.
Mr. zumFelde said he is optimistic that money for a new pool could be raised entirely from private donations, although "if the economy turned around, in four to five years" a pool levy might pass.
"At this time, we know that there's not any public money," he said. "… We think there's enough people out there who could make a five or six-figure gift, leave something in their wills."
Such a donation would follow the example set by Dorothy Biddle, who bequeathed oil stock to the city for parks development that sold for $1.7 million after her death in 2005.
But Mrs. Humbarger said pool fund-raisers aren't waiting for another million-dollar benefactor to show up.
"I will take 10 or 20 smaller donors -- anything to get started," she said, adding that successful local fund-raising could make the community eligible for grant monies.
Because Wauseon High School has an indoor pool, the city recreation department remains able to offer swimming instruction formerly provided at Reighard Park. But the hours for open swimming at the high school pool are limited, and Mrs. Humbarger said families' ability to go for a swim on a hot summer's afternoon is valuable.
"Everybody needs to have that memory, or at least the chance to have that memory," she said.