Having failed once to raise funding for a new pool, the City of Rice Lake, school district and local swim advocates are now changing lanes.
The City Council voted Tuesday to pursue a new plan that would involve the creation of a non-profit to fundraise and ultimately own a new aquatics facility and community center.
Mark Johnson Jr., a member of an ad-hoc committee said that some potential donors did not respond well to the idea of giving money to the city and school district.
He said that by creating a non-profit entity and adding a community recreation center as part of the aquatic facility, the plan may receive more widespread support. Johnson said there is not a detailed plan for a rec center, but mentioned the possibilities of a walking track and gymnasium.
Alderman Dan Lawler agreed, saying, "If you wrap both of them together, I think you're going to get more community support."
The motion to purse a new pool agreement passed 6-1, with Mark O'Brien opposed and Jim Dorrance absent.
Two years ago, the City and School District struck an agreement for a new facility. The ad hoc committee comprised of School Board and City Council members, as well as community members, recommended a $9,729,000 facility, including a general pool and competition pool, as well as handicap accessible changing rooms, in a new building joined to the existing pool facility and Hilltop/Middle School. The old pool would be abandoned.
The City had committed to funding $5.5 million, with the remainder coming from donations and other sources. The School District would take on all operational costs. This plan was favored over the estimated cost of $3.3 million to renovate the existing facility.
But the $4 million fundraising goal fell short.
For now, the community has a pool that dates back to 1976.
Maintenance continues, with the latest being $14,000- $18,000 worth of piping repairs, according school district financial officer Pat Blackaller.
That cost will be shared by the City and School District, which have an existing pool agreement that lasts until June of 2022.
The new agreement would involve the non-profit leasing the pool to the city annually for $1 for 20 years. The City would also spend $2 million updating the existing pool into a recreation space.
The School District would also have a 20-year lease to operate the pool, taking on the costs of doing so and 75% of the debt, with usage fees going to help pay costs as well.
During public comment, Cory Schnacky, who is on the ballot April 7 for a Council seat, said he did not think now was the right time to spend a large sum on a new pool.
Ad-hoc committee member Amy Muminovic said Tueday that the need for a new facility remains. She noted that the community has an aging population, and the current pool has accessibility issues. Muminovic also said the youth program and swim teams are large and successful in competition.
Johnson said many other communities bigger and smaller than Rice Lake have better recreational facilities.
"We're behind the time with some facilities, especially the pool," he said.
The Birchwood Four Corners Emergency Services District is conducting fundraising efforts to build a new Emergency Services Building.
The district provides fire coverage for the Towns of Birchwood, Cedar Lake, Doyle, Edgewater, Long Lake, Wilson and the Village of Birchwood; and ambulances services for the Towns of Birchwood, Cedar Lake, Edgewater, Wilson and the Village of Birchwood.
Almost 4,000 full-time residents and 20,000 seasonal residents live in the 233-square miles covered by the Emergency Services District.
The Birchwood Volunteer Ambulance Service responds to an average of 148 calls per year and provides two EMTs on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Birchwood Volunteer Fire Department responds to an average of 60 fire calls per year and has 30 volunteer firefighters readily available to respond to calls.
Charitable givers David and Carolyn Cleveland have given the district a $500,000 matching grant to assist in its fundraising efforts. The Clevelands have also been major benefactors to local Humane Societies, Hunt Hill, Birchwood Schools and other causes.
According to BFCESD president Jon Sleik, the current fire and ambulance hall, built in 1970, is woefully cramped and outdated to effectively and safety service the area it represents.
Northwest Builders projects the proposed new building will cost $1,680,000.
To see or hear more about the problems with the existing building and the need for a
building, location and floor plan, go to www.townofcedarlake.org, selected Departments, then select other Town Contacts, then select BFCESD, then scroll down to BFCESD New Building and click on it.
"We need your support to build this new facility," Sleik said. "The primary funding options include pending grant proposals from various organizations and foundations as well as donations from individuals. The remaining cost of the new facility will be proportionately split by the communities that are served through agreed upon local assessments. Grants and donations will help reduce the tax impact of this new facility."
Another way to show support is to buy a personalized brick to commemorate the new Fire and Ambulance Hall. All commemorative bricks with a name and message will be displayed in the new building to honor legacy gifts.
Options include a 12-by 12-inch brick for a $2,500 donation; a 8-by 8-inch brick for a $1,000 donation; and a 4-by 8-inch brick for a $500 donation.
Send tax-deductible donations to: BFCESD, P.O. Box 417, Birchwood, WI 54817.
"Your donation will make a significant difference in the safety and protection for you and your neighbors for years to come."
City historian Don Carney, 85, of Rice Lake died Feb. 6 after a brief illness.
The Rice Lake native and 1952 graduate of Rice Lake High School will be remembered for his lifelong love of ice skating at city rinks in winter. In warmer months, he could be spotted daily riding his bicycle and/or walking his dog throughout the city.
After serving a stint in the U.S. Army, Carney had an adventurous career with the U.S. Park Service (1962-1990) after which he moved back to Rice Lake, settling into a historic home built by Eleazar Hammond on Wilson Avenue, not far from the home in which he was born and raised.
During his years as a ranger, naturalist and historian with the U.S. Park Service, Carney accepted assignments at Morristown National Historical Park in Morristown, N.J.; Mammoth Cave National Park in southern Kentucky; Death Valley National Monument in Death Valley, Calif.; Coulee Dam National Recreation Area in eastern Washington; and Grand Portage National Monument in northern Minnesota. One of his most notable experiences was helping federal agents apprehend criminal cult leader Charles Mansion in Death Valley National Park.
He shared experiences working at those sites, particularly at Death Valley, as a writer of the Chronotype's Ink Blog for 10 years (2009-2019).
Carney also enjoyed writing about weather extremes, memories of his school days, famous people who visited Rice Lake and iconic hangouts, like the Bungalow.
In February 2014, Carney shared a feature story on the history of Rice Lake's ice rinks from 1880 to the present. Since getting his first pair of skates at 5 years old, he only missed 1 year at city rinks, the winter he was stationed at Heidelburg, Germany.
In December 2017, he shared a feature story on his love of Christmas trees, from Rice Lake's spectacular sprucelined sidewalks and tree in the middle of Main Street in
December 1926 to Christmas Tree Hill, a balsam tree farm planted and tended by himself and his wife Darlene in Price County, where she is from.
Although his Park Service job took him throughout the country, Carney liked his hometown best, acknowledging Main Street always beckoned him with "endearing feelings and warm memories."
"Don was the most wonderful man," said Katherine Elchert, director of the Rice Lake Public Library. "He spent many hours with us at the Rice Lake Public Library as our area's premier local historian and was always willing to share his wealth of knowledge with the community.
"And while a librarian shouldn't pick favorites, Don was mine. I'll always remember his sharp wit, his love of dogs (Collies in particular!) and his generosity in telling his stories to us."
Karen Heram, executive director at the Rice Lake Chamber of Commerce, said, "My memory of Don Carney and his ice skating: When the city built the new rink behind the Chamber office, he would come, park his car, set up his video camera, play music and skate. He would skate to the music; he was learning to spin. He would go skating often during the winter months."
She added, "I also knew him as our community historian. Whenever I needed someone to help with history about a person or business in Rice Lake, Don was one of the guys I would contact. Don and his sister wrote a book—we have a few copies of it yet in the office. He will be missed. A very kind guy."
A full obituary for Carney appears on page A9 of this newspaper.