Friends in the news

Pool supporters eye city parks’ future $178,000 was raised during 10-day fund drive

By Joe LaFurgey

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – Less than one
week after exceeding their goal, the head of Friends of Grand Rapids
Parks had a message for residents: “Let’s go swimming.”

Steve
Faber, who leads the organization that held a 10-day fund drive to open
pools at Briggs and Martin Luther King parks, told city commissioners
Tuesday morning $178,000 was raised. The goal was $175,000.

A
third pool at Richmond Park will open with donations from local
businessman Bob Sullivan. The city will contribute $125,000 to the
effort.

That’s still about $60,000 short of what it would take
to keep the pools open for a full seven-week session. Since donated
money is still coming in, city commissioners decided to keep the pools
open until the money runs out.

“We also have the potential to offset that cost with fees,” Mayor George Heartwell said.

Current plans do not have children paying an entrance fee for the pools.

“We estimated if children were charged $1, it would raise an additional $35,000,” City Manager Greg Sundstrom said.

No decision was made on the fee.

Pools will open six days a week, Monday through Saturday, beginning July 5.

City
Parks and Recreation Director Jay Steffen said while the money is
available, he is not sure he will have enough people on hand to open
them. He still needs lifeguards, attendants, pool managers and others
to run the operation, he said.

“We’re scrambling to get those pools ready for that opening,” Steffen told 24 Hour News 8.

Faber
admits the 10-day fundraising effort was not the best way to get the
pools open. Friends of Grand Rapids Parks also is looking at ways to
find not only pools, but other parks and recreation services for city
residents.

“When we agreed to run this campaign, we received
assurances for the city that all the cards were on the table and there
was no bad ideas,” Faber said.

His group will look at more
permanent, public and private partnerships to help fund city parks. It
will also examine ways the city and Kent County could combine some
services as a way to create cost savings through efficiencies.

In the past, Heartwell has floated the idea of a millage to fund combined city and county parks.

Faber declined to give many details, but did say that too could be part of future conversations on park funding.

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