Pool funds drying up in Empire

kcarlson@modbee.comJune 23, 2013 

    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
    Recent stories written by Ken
    E-mail: kcarlson@modbee.com

— The community pulled together to build the Regional Water Safety Training Center in Empire, giving children a safe place to swim.

Stanislaus County officials are counting on the same spirit to raise funds for continued operation and maintenance of the pool.

The county hopes business owners will make five-year pledges to the cause. Fund-raising events will play an important role as well.

So far, the effort has garnered $57,500 in pledges, with contributions coming from Duarte Nursery, the Modesto Irrigation District and the Beard family. The Costa Foundation held a community brunch this month to raise funds.

"Last year, there was some discussion about whether or not it might have to close, if fund raising could not be rejuvenated," said Jami Aggers, environmental resources director for Stanislaus County.

The grass-roots effort to build the pool came about after three boys, Daniel, Jose and Eloy Yepez, drowned in the Tuolumne River in July 2003, not far from their home in Empire. Authorities believed fewer drownings would occur in rivers, lakes and canals if there was a pool for kids living in the rural area.

The $2.64 million project was built in 2009 through a combination of state and county funding, facility fees and a Stewardship Council grant. Friends of the Empire Community Pool raised money for the swimming programs, but those funds were spent during the initial years.

County parks and recreation, together with the Police Activities League, offers lessons and recreational swimming at the center. The annual cost to operate and maintain the center is about $40,000, which includes utilities, pool supplies, the security alarm service and labor.

The county hopes to generate some revenue by renting the pool to private groups for parties or other events.

"The center provides an opportunity for physical activity, and when you make a capital improvement like that, it doesn't make sense to not keep it going," Aggers said.

Those interested in contributing to the center or renting the facility may call Stanislaus County environmental resources at (209) 525-6700 or the Police Activities League at (209) 529-9121.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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