Determined not to give up, fitness and wellness supporters met Friday morning and agreed they still want a comprehensive study of the city's recreation facilities. On March 19, the city council voted 4-3 not to authorize a $51,500 contribution to what would be an $85,000 study by a Colorado consulting company.
Supporters still want to take a comprehensive look at the present situation and see what's needed, long term.
They plan to figure out what questions and concerns they haven’t addressed with the council, and address them, chairman Dave Pederson said.
Council members debated for nearly a hour at their last meeting, before the vote.
They didn’t have much data to go on before the meeting, Councilman Martin Steinbeck told the Bulletin.
“I had no supporting information except for the work session a couple of weeks ago and the lengthy discussions at the meeting," he said. “It took me a while to grasp what was trying to be achieved.”
Steinbeck voted yes once he “got a sense of what was being asked for and the goals were spelled out a little more clearly."
Pederson said supporters didn’t anticipate the depth of the opposition, because the city would not contribute directly. The money is already in the quality growth fund. The advisory group that oversees the fund unanimously recommended the contribution.
If nothing else, the council debate Tuesday has sparked more interest.
Pederson said a half-dozen more people are joining the wellness support committee.
“They don’t want the effort to die,” he said.
Recent health ratings rank Lincoln County 61st out of 75 areas in the state. The county’s obesity rate is 4 percent higher than the state norm. The number of preventable hospital stays in Lincoln County are 13 percent higher than other areas, according to a study complied by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Leland Poppe of Great Western Bank posted the study on his facebook. Poppe organizes fun runs and 5Ks and said he is on the wellness committee.
Pederson said about 15 supporters met Friday. The group includes representatives of the city recreation center, the city public service department, the college, public and private schools, the hospital and others. Mayor Dwight Livingston recently started attending.
Major employers Union Pacific and Wal-Mart are involved, although they were not able to attend the meeting Friday, Pederson said.
If the city won’t support the study, the wellness group might create a non-profit organization and sponsor the study themselves, but Pederson said they prefer to work with city officials, because the city is “integral part of what we are talking about.”
Too big for locals
Steinbeck said the city itself cannot do a study of the required scope and magnitude.
“Otherwise it would or could have been done already,” he said.
“I am an absolute proponent of keeping monies local, but I do have limits of sensibility to this,” Steinbeck said.
Pederson said there are pre-conceived notions of what the project is.
He said it's not all about the rec center.
“This is community wide. It’s to talk about all the facilities, to see if they might be used more productively. Do we have enough? Do we have too many in one place? Are we missing out on some things? That sort of thing,” he said. “People ask us what the project is. There is no project. This is to find out if there should be a project."
He said the idea is to develop a long-range plan for the future – for 10-20 years. The city could use the plan in developing its budget.