Park board recommends revisiting plan to close Legion Pool
De Pere City Council to consider binding referendum
By Kevin Boneske
DE PERE – The council chambers were filled Thursday, Aug. 16, when supporters of keeping the Legion Pool open on the city’s east side urged the Board of Park Commissioners not to close down the facility.
Board members listened for about an hour and a half while several speakers representing the group Save Legion Pool outlined why they favor outdoor swimming facilities in De Pere on each side of the Fox River, rather than closing down the Legion Pool and building an aquatic center on the west side at VFW Park, which also currently has an outdoor pool.
Those concerns included the impact closing the Legion Pool would have on the community, such as with the safety and expense for children living on the east side of De Pere having to travel to the west side and how the area near Legion Park would be affected with property values, etc.
Speakers representing Save Legion Pool also made reference to survey data in which the majority of respondents wanted a swimming facility on both sides of the river.
Following the presentation, board members passed a motion recommending to the city council that it revisit the previous decision to build an aquatic center at VFW Park and close Legion Pool. The council Aug. 7 had tabled action on the final plans for a new aquatic center on the west side to allow those with Save Legion Pool to present their information to the park board.
Alderman Larry Lueck, who is also a park board member, said he has been working with Council President James Boyd and the city administration on two agenda items for the Aug. 21 council meeting that are in alignment with the Save Legion Pool presentation.
“The first is a request that the council to rescind its decision to build an aquatic center at VFW and close Legion Pool,” Lueck said. “The second is we put a binding referendum on the November ballot.”
Audience members then gave Lueck’s announcement of the two council agenda items a round of applause.
Katie Carviou of Save Legion Pool said she is thrilled with the board’s recommendation to the council.
“Our goal was to get them to reconsider,” Carviou said. “Our real goal was to be able to work together with the city to come up with a solution that benefits the entire community and the fact that they’re willing to reconsider and look at the information that we’ve put together to try to do that is a huge success.”
Carviou said members of the public have sought a referendum to have input on the decision whether to have a swimming facility on both sides of the river.
“We call it the r-word, over and over again,” she said. “The public has really kind of screamed for that. The feel they should have input on this decision. I think the general population will be really pleased with that process.
Though she doesn’t know at this point what the Save Legion Pool group’s involvement would be in seeking passage of a referendum, should it be authorized by the city council, Carviou said the group has “heard from hundreds of people who are kind of ready to go door-to-door and talk about this issue and get people to the polls to vote for it.”
As a parent of four children, Carviou said she would like to see an enhanced box pool at Legion Park “where not only the kids have a wonderful experience, but the parents do as well.”
The council’s resolution calling for a referendum notes there would be an increase in the city’s tax levy above the net new construction to operate and construct aquatic facilities at both VFW and Legion Park.
Instead of the city’s tax levy only being allowed to increase by $27,218 to $12,228,378 for 2019, the proposed referendum, upon approval by the voters, would allow the council to exceed the state-imposed levy limits by $900,000 for the next fiscal year and on an ongoing basis “for improving and transforming the pools located at VFW Park and Legion Park into aquatic facilities and for operating those aquatic facilities.”