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Q&A on Key Citizen Concerns from our November Survey

November's Jump And Splash Survey asked for comments, and many citizens obliged. Here are the most frequently expressed concerns, along with responses from the task force.

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Comment. Affordability for membership. Twenty-three people specifically requested that the facility offer low membership fees, fees on a sliding scale, or simply that it remain “affordable.”

Task Force Response. Membership fees would be set to cover costs. We are exploring ways to cover operating expenses aside from membership fees, as well as opportunities to capitalize on volunteer services and work trade agreements in order to minimize the burden on membership costs. Importantly, we recognize varying perspectives in what is “affordable,” and endeavor to launch a facility that is inclusive regardless of income. 

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Comment. Upfront costs, who will pay, and impacts on taxes. Eleven people asked who would pay for the facility or requested that it not lead to higher taxes for residents.

Task Force Response. The MIRA Task Force is looking at both fund raising for the land and for construction of the facility (capital costs), as well as revenue sources (to cover operating costs). This could include but is not limited to grants, crowdfunding, loans, or earmarked public funding. After identifying all possible sources, we will evaluate what is truly sustainable and supported by the public. This process will be shared with the public.

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Comment. Distinguishing between wanting the facility and recognizing actual need for the facility in town. Fifteen respondents indicated that they were unsure whether to select Yes or No when we asked whether they thought the city “needed” a facility like this.

Task Force Response. We really appreciate your honesty and your ability to distinguish between wants and needs. “Need” is definitely a difficult word to define, or conceptualize and while some of you liked the idea, you stopped short of circling “Yes.” Our hope as a Task Force is to convince the community and the city officials that this type of facility offers immense value to a community and the surrounding area and that it would be a wise investment in the region to promote health, wellness, and a strong social fabric.

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Comment. Developing a realistic facility that can be financially supported given the small size of Montpelier. Seven people expressed some concern about the scale of the project, and whether it was feasible. Some people really emphasized the need for a pool while others asked us to remove the pool to keep the project more manageable. We heard a few concerns that by trying to do too much, we will fail entirely, and that Montpelier is too small to support a large-scale facility.

Task Force Response. We are developing a business plan for the facility that includes both anticipated expenses and anticipated sources of income.  Our premise is that the overall facility needs to show a net profit. As a first step we are evaluating the profitability of each of six amenity “clusters": aquatics, open gym space and a track, machines and free weights, a climbing wall, racquet courts, and rental space (both long and short term, for many purposes). For any of these "clusters" to be included in the final facility they need to show income that exceeds their expense, unless their expenses can be covered by another cluster. We will consult with experts and plan to collaborate in the upcoming City recreation feasibility study to finalize our business plan.

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Comment. Requests for a saltwater/ low chemical pool. Seven people requested a low or no chemical pool.

Task Force Response. We will keep this in mind as things move forward. In general, cost-permitting, we will pursue a facility that minimizes its negative impacts on people and the surrounding environment.

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Comment. Identifying potential community collaborators. Six people suggested potential contacts and partners.

Task Force Response. We thank you for all of these ideas. The Task Force is currently generating a list of potential groups, businesses, public offices, and institutions that could serve as valuable partners/ “community collaborators,” that include the schools, senior center, and local medical facilities. Additionally, we don’t know how our efforts can or will overlap with the goals of the Barre street rec facility but we are also keeping open lines of communication with the city to find out where synergies exist between our efforts so that we can capitalize on joint funding opportunities. This list will be shared with the public for further improvement.

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Comment. Facility cleanliness, accessibility, and hours of operation. Seven people indicated that this facility needed to be downtown, clean, or needed to have flexible hours of operation to be considered accessible.

Task Force Response. Any new facility that is launched will need to be compliant with ADA standards and we fully intend to design a building that is clean and safe for the public to enjoy. Concerns over hours of operation are great to voice; we will certainly be limited by funding but will also solicit public input on ideal hours when the time comes so that we most effectively meet the needs of the public.

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Comment. Minimizing redundancy with what’s already offered in town. Four people expressed concern that this new facility would act as competition to struggling local businesses, or that Montpelier didn’t need “yet another yoga center.”

Task Force Response. It makes sense to focus on unmet needs. Currently, the Task Force is identifying other wellness programs and facilities around town to meet with. Our goal is to open up lines of communication with them to find out where our efforts can be complementary rather than competitive.

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A few respondents told us some things that the city needed to do or not do, or that we should spend our money elsewhere like on the bike path or on a downtown beach. We just want to reiterate, we are not the city, but, rather, a citizen group and we don’t (yet) have a budget, but our mission is specific to seeing this come to fruition and we are not looking to spend our money “elsewhere” on other public projects.  We agree, however, that these are great ideas and we encourage other groups to come forward to launch them!  

 

Gia Petito