Aquatic center -- nothing ventured, nothing gained

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fort Scott voters will decide, on June 5, whether to fund a new indoor-outdoor community aquatic center through a 10-year, 1-cent sales tax.

A fierce debate has been raging, with impassioned arguments on both sides. Proponents and opponents, alike, have purchased advertising or placed signs in local yards in efforts to persuade voters toward their ways of thinking on this matter.

The Fort Scott Tribune has given the issue a great deal of coverage and has published letters to the editor from both sides.

One letter writer, Dale Johnson, made a point that effectively rebutted the arguments of those who say Fort Scott should not enter into a project that projections show will not be self-supporting. He pointed out that few public utilities create enough revenue to cover what it costs to operate them, citing the Fort Scott Public Library, Buck Run Community Center, the Fort Scott Animal Shelter, Gunn Park, and the state transportation system as examples. Although they are not self-supporting, if any of these entities were to shut down, the public outcry would be deafening.

This is a classic illustration of the old saying, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

The Fort Scott Community Visioning project, of which the aquatic center project is a part, seeks to improve the quality of life for people who live in Fort Scott and its surrounding area, thus making it a better place to live and a more inviting community where prospective residents, businesses and industries will want to locate, as well as creating attractions to draw visitors, who will spend money at stores, restaurants, motels, and other retail businesses.

The USD 234 Board of Education, the Bourbon County Board of Realtors, the Fort Scott Community College Board of Trustees, and the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce have all written letters to the Aqua Vision Committee, expressing their support for the project.

In a May 8 letter, USD 234 Superintendent of Schools Rick Werling said, "The Board believes that the aquatic center would be a great addition to our community. They realize that people of all ages will be able to use the facility, and that is certainly one of the strengths of the proposal."

Carol Lydic, secretary and treasurer of the Bourbon County Board of Realtors, wrote in a May 10 letter to the committee that the board had taken a vote on whether to lend its public support to project. She wrote, "At its monthly meeting today, the Bourbon County Board of Realtors voted to support the aquatic center project proposed by the Vision Committee. Our membership encourages all eligible voters to turn out on June 5 and vote."

Fort Scott Community College President Jim Meisner wrote to the committee in January on behalf of the FSCC Board of Trustees, expressing the members' belief in the benefit of such a facility to the community.

He wrote, "Fort Scott Community College is supportive of the proposed aquatic center," adding that, although the college couldn't contribute financially to the project, its physical education department could offer a variety of classes there, including swimming, life guard, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, water safety instructor, water aerobics, and scuba diving classes. He said the FSCC athletic department could use such a facility to provide aqua therapy for athletic injuries, low-impact cardio workouts for rehab patients, alternate workouts or cross training, and could offer classes in synchronized swimming, water rescue techniques sessions, and water therapy programs as part of its care and prevention courses.

In addition, Miesner said, "Our Student Services' dean would be interested in utilizing the center for a variety of student activities throughout the school year."

Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Bob Marshall wrote to Aqua Vision co-convenor Kale Nelson on April 30, saying an aquatic center would benefit the community in several ways.

Marshall wrote, "As one of the goals of the community visioning process, the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce believes the aquatic center will prove beneficial to community development, positively impact economic development, and increase the quality of life for all citizens of Fort Scott. Therefore, on behalf of the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, I am proud to document our support for the aquatic center."

Clearly, these people -- leaders who have an interest in seeing Fort Scott become a stronger and more prosperous community -- believe an aquatic center can and would help move this city toward that objective.

Considering how much money most people spend on unnecessary items and activities that really add no lasting improvement to their quality of life, a one-penny sales tax -- one dollar for every $100 spent -- doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice to make for a real improvement to the community.

People who want to see Fort Scott blossom into a truly prosperous community -- with plenty of jobs, amenities for a better quality of life, and a booming business community that offers the goods and services we all need -- must understand that such a future is possible and that building an aquatic center is a positive step in that direction.

This is an opportunity to invest in something that will make all of our lives better, even those of us who will never set foot in the aquatic center, because it will be more than a recreational, athletic and therapeutic facility. It will be a stimulant to the local economy.

Vote "yes" on June 5 to invest in a better Fort Scott.