Next steps in future of potential aquatic center to be discussed at public September meeting

The road to building an aquatic center in Mt. Pleasant is a long one, but in September the community will receive an answer to a question that was asked in November 2019.

In November, a multi-governmental committee comprised of members from the City of Mt. Pleasant, Union Township, and the Mt. Pleasant School District – each of which has been represented by two members on the committee – began meeting to explore the feasibility of creating a recreational authority that would be responsible for governing the aquatic center, if it were built.

The question the committee was tasked with answering was, “Is a recreational authority the best mechanism to advance the creation of a community aquatic center?”

During a meeting tentatively set for Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. the committee will give their recommendation to the three boards represented on the committee. The meeting will be a virtual public meeting.

“The next step after September is each of the three elected boards would discuss the recommendation that comes from the study committee and discuss their next steps,” says Nancy Ridley, Mt. Pleasant City Manager and member of the committee representing the City of Mt. Pleasant. “So, by the end of the year, I would expect that each of those boards would make a decision about their interest level in whether or not to have a recreational authority formed.”

To form their recommendation, the committee has spent much of their time since November doing research about what is and isn’t allowed by a recreational authority, says Mark Stuhldreher, Union Township manager and chair of the committee. Primarily, they thoroughly examined the Recreational Authorities Act, which allows for a recreational authority to be established for the operation of – among other things – a public swimming pool.

In order to create the recreational authority, at least two of the boards would have to vote to agree to articles of incorporation.

“That’s the document that, if voted on and approved, would create the authority,” says Stuhldreher. “All of that is designed so the governing bodies understand what they’re creating.”

The outdoor pool at Island Park shut down decades ago, but its absence is still felt in Mt. Pleasant, where the wheels have been put in motion to potentially build an aquatic center.
If the recreational authority is created, that body will have a long road ahead of it before anyone swims a lap in a pool, though. Where it will be built, how it will be funded, and how it will be operated are just a few of the many questions that will still have to be answered.

For Lisa Diaz Sytsema, a member of Swim Friends of Mid-Michigan, a community volunteer group that has been highly involved in this planning process, and honorary member of the committee that will be making its recommendations in September, the progress that has been made so far is uplifting.

“Leadership in the community are coming together now that are committed to this and see value in having an aquatic center,” Diaz Sytsema says. “They’ve continued to help move this forward. That just feels great. It feels like there’s a real commitment to this initiative in the committee.”

With leadership in the community working to make the aquatic center a reality, if a recreational authority is created the next question that will quickly be answered is whether the community will do the same.

“The governing bodies – in addition to voting on articles of incorporation – they also would have to appoint members to the authority. The authority would be comprised of an authority board and those individuals would be appointed via the rules that are articulated in the articles,” says Stuhldreher. “We have to find interested community members who have the time and are interested in doing the work.”

It is also possible that the community will be asked to financially support this endeavor.

“[The recreational authority] will have a lot of work to do,” says Stuhldreher. “They probably can’t do that without a millage that requires a vote of the people.”

One thing is clear: If a recreational authority is created and this project moves to the next step, the future of the aquatic center will rely on the community coming together to make it happen.

“To move this forward, to get this to the finish line, the community is going to have to rally around it… it’s going to take us all to make it happen,” says Diaz Sytsema.

Additional updates about the progress of the aquatic center can be found on Facebook.

Read previous stories about the aquatic center:

As Mt. Pleasant explores potential aquatic center, residents welcome the return of a community pool

Potential aquatic center in Isabella County moves one step closer to reality

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