The following questions were asked recently on the Wonderline:
Q: There was a large ball tournament in York and I heard from many people with kids how much they enjoyed the fact that the family aquatic center is so close. They really enjoy taking their kids there and I was proud that York can offer that to our visitors.
So I got to thinking how the family aquatic center hasn’t really been there all that long. I moved to York after it was already built, so I was hoping maybe you could tell us about the history of the aquatic center and how that big project came to be. How did the project start, how was it paid for and when did all that take place?
A: In mid-July 2000, the volunteer members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board received a letter from a child that conveyed a very straightforward request that they apply for funds from the York Community Foundation for a new swimming pool. This child’s letter spurred their attention, as a new swimming pool had been on the city’s master plan for the past 20 years. The existing swimming pool (at that time) was constructed in 1938, and was nearing the end of its lifespan. The filtration system was outdated and chlorine gas was still being used. Furthermore, the water was not heated (it never had been).
The City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board had already gathered information about the process, costs, procedures and preferred methods — as well as received recommendations from a consultant. However, other city priorities had come into play — and the pool project was put on the back burner.
The volunteer board applied for funds from the York Community Foundation, which was asking for requests per a large $2 million endowment from the estate of one woman — Lucile Mincks.
Mincks, upon her death in November 1999, made $1.8 million available to various projects throughout the area with one stipulation — that the projects enhance the lives of the children living in York County. Volunteers operate the York Community Foundation, as well.
A $750,000 grant was approved by the Foundation for the construction of the new family aquatic center.
A nearly 20-member York Citizens Pool Committee was formed in mid-January, 2001. The committee chose Schemmer Associates as the architects and engineers and Brian Halsey (with Schemmer) was named project manager.
From the very beginning, then-Mayor Greg Adams called for the project to be that of the community — utilizing opinions and ideas from a wide range of residents, community leaders, senior citizens, young parents, business owners, teachers and others. Regular meetings of the York Citizens Pool Committee were held, as a number of different schemes and possible locations within the city were considered.
It was clear from the beginning of the project that the $750,000 gift from the Mincks estate, while extremely generous, would not be enough to cover the cost of the entire project, which was estimated to be around $3 million. Plans to launch a campaign for a bond issue began.
The goals of the group were established: “meet the city of York’s aquatic needs; adhere to cost control measures; interject an entertainment value for families; provide an aquatic facility that is handicapped accessible; provide aesthetic improvements to the pool environment with appropriate appurtenances and landscaping; and enhance the quality of life for the city of York with a facility that is attractive, exciting, safe and provides a quality leisure experience.”
The group also identified that the aquatic center would need to be recreational, therapeutic and conducive to competition.
The group went through the process of establishing “wants” and “needs” in regard to what would be necessary for the new facility. Brainstorming sessions were held to carve out priorities.
The Citizens Committee agreed that they wanted slides, zero-depth entry, shaded areas, interactive play features, full-service concessions, a bath house, pump house, green space and ample lighting. For future development, they also wanted to leave open the options of adding a handicapped slide, the installation of a Lazy River, misting facilities, a sand play area and more.
Hanna: Keelan and Associates were involved as city planners, to help in the selection of the site.
Planners, architects, city council members and administration, the mayor, Parks and Rec Committee and the York Citizens Pool Committee worked diligently to form a plan they could present to the voters in the city.
Students at the York Middle School were enlisted to create their own artistic renditions of what they felt a new aquatic center should look like — and were asked to list the amenities they felt were important for such a facility.
An online poll was established on the website of the York News-Times. A special section of the website was also dedicated to host photos of the existing swimming pool, as well as the proposed designs and sites. Similar maps and photographs were displayed in a variety of public places throughout the community, in order to garner comment from the citizenry. There was also a public forum held at the auditorium, in which the Citizens Committee explained the plans, which was chaired by Renee Kaliff, a local mother and volunteer.
A special election was held Aug. 14, 2001, regarding whether a $2.7 million bond issue was appropriate for the construction of the new pool. It was defeated upon the first attempt.
The Citizens Committee regrouped and began the campaign once again. The second time around, the group was nearly double in size from the first campaign. Yard signs, bumper stickers, pins and more paraphernalia were purchased (from private donations of supporters). Publicity was increased, through extensive news articles, website activity and advertising (again, purchased through private donations). The money left in the account after the election was put in a special fund to be used toward purchasing extra equipment, if needed, after the aquatic center was constructed.
On May 14, 2002, the matter again was put to a vote. This time, attendance at the polls was much higher — 28 percent of the city’s residents turned out. Nearly 2 to 1, the citizens said they wanted a new family aquatic center and approved the $2.7 million bond issue.
Upon the passage of the bond issue, the planning went to the next level — the committee continued to meet, and with the city council formulated the final plans. Construction began, with the intention for the facility to open in the summer of 2004. However, delays caused by weather and other factors stalled the opening of the pool until May of 2005.
A large acreage was purchased on the eastern edge of the city, near the elementary school and plans began for the creation of Mincks Park (which would surround the new aquatic center). A number of trees were planted by elementary students, which were donated by a locally owned landscaping company for Arbor Day. More landscaping was completed by the city. A long-term plan was formulated for the eventual expansion and completion of the park, spanning decades as the area evolves. Additional monies were received from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum’s Nebraska Green Space Stewardship Initiative.
The York Family Aquatic Center opened May 28, 2005. Headlining the grand opening ceremonies were then-Congressman Tom Osborne and then-Mayor Greg Adams. The mayor christened the facility by riding down the slide with his granddaughter, while the Citizens Committee and other supporters anxiously waited to jump in the water for the first time.
Q: Has a public works director yet been chosen for the City of York or is that position still vacant?
A: No one has yet been appointed to the currently vacant position of public works director for the City of York.
Q: With all this rain, will the city of York consider spraying for mosquitoes? Has the city traditionally sprayed for mosquitoes in the summer?
A: The practice of spraying for mosquitoes was discontinued in York many, many years ago because citizens complained about the associated noise, smell and possible negative health effects. So the practice was eliminated.
So far, there have not been any indications as to whether that might change.
Q: I see delivery vans/trucks go to the county jail every so often to deliver groceries to feed the inmates at the county jail.
I’m curious as to whether there are laws about what jail inmates have to be fed.
A: Chapter 11 of the Nebraska Jail Standards pertains to food services (as far as the minimum of what has to be done).
The policy reads that “at least three meals, one of which shall be hot, must be provided at regular times during each 24 hour period with no more than 15 hours between the evening meal and breakfast.”
“Meals shall be prepared with consideration for food flavor, texture, temperature, appearance and palatability.”
“The food service shall meet the dietary allowances as recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture.”
“Special diets shall be provided when prescribed by medical authority.”
“Provisions shall be made for special diets required by an inmate’s religious beliefs where reasonably possible.”
“Food shall not be withheld, nor the menu varied, as a disciplinary sanction.”
And “each jail facility shall comply in all matters of sanitation in the storage, preparation and service of food with the Food Service Sanitation Manual issued by the United States Food and Drug Administrator.”