Shoot for the moonPosted Wednesday, December 22, 2010, at 8:41 AM
The January meeting of the Western Elmore County Recreation District could be the most important one it has held in its ten-year history.
At that time, the board must decide if it will proceed with a capital campaign to try and raise the extra funds it will need to build the community center -- with a pool -- that the Community Leadership Development Committee has recommended.
Such a campaign won't be easy, and the WECRD board will clearly need a solid commitment from the Treasure Valley YMCA that it would be willing to operate such a facility if it is built. Y officials were frustratingly vague on that point during the CLDC wrap-up meeting last week.
A large majority of the community has always supported the basic vision of the WECRD -- to build a community facility with an indoor pool. But the question, and much of the opposition to the district's very existence, has always been whether or not we could afford it.
That's why the CLDC's work has been so valuable. Rather than vague assumptions -- on both sides -- the CLDC has developed the hard numbers needed for a reasoned and logical debate. Perhaps even more importantly, the CLDC had tried to develop a plan that would create a self-sustaining facility, one in which the need for the rec district to be involved at all -- or even exist -- would not be necessary.
It's a good idea, and a well-researched business model, but in the end it all revolves around the ability of this community to raise $900,000 in private donations to launch the project, and $4.5 million to complete it.
Far too much time, effort and money have been spent on developing the CLDC's recommendation to quit now. It seems reasonable for the WECRD board to try the capital campaign.
If it works, great. We get the facility we wanted. In this economy, raising that kind of money will be hard, but not completely impossible.
If it doesn't work, then we've learned that we're just not a big enough community yet to be able to afford such a facility, and the rec district should pack its bags and dissolve, fading into the sunset as a failed and costly -- though well intentioned -- experiment.
But either way, we won't know until we try. We've come too far to give up now. The rec district needs to make one final effort to make this work, and its goal should be the full $4.5 million. There are financial virtues to the phased approach the Y has suggested, but in the current political climate, we can't see dragging this process out over the next decade and a half. The public's patience has worn thin enough.
We believe the most politically realistic approach, even though it is financially much more difficult to achieve, is to shoot for the moon now and try and raise, within the next three years, the full $4.5 million.
You won't know if it will work until you try, but it's a goal worth trying.
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