McMinnville officials made a splash with a long-term planning meeting held Tuesday.
Four goals were identified as priorities for the city during the brainstorming session, including the construction of an aquatic center.
It was noted the aquatic center would likely be years away. There appears to be agreement among elected officials to wait until debt expires in two years on a couple current city loans before undertaking another large-scale capital project.
“The idea is to be prepared when we’re finally ready to go,” said Alderman Zach Sutton. “It’s been said government should focus on services that private enterprise is not going to provide and I think we can say an aquatics center is not going to be provided by private enterprise. And we know a lot of folks are interested in it.”
The aquatics center made the final list of city priorities, but not because of Alderman Stacey Harvey, who does not support the project.
“It gets a hard no from me,” said Harvey. “The city has many, many more pressing needs than another addition to the Parks and Recreation budget. I think we need to prioritize operations of the city over another fluffy kitty project. The quality of life for the citizens of McMinnville will not suffer one bit if we don’t have an indoor pool. It would be financially irresponsible for us to start such a project.”
The city is putting the finishing touches on an up to $10 million renovation of McMinnville Civic Center in a project expected to be complete this spring.
Alderman Rachel Kirby believes an indoor pool would be a benefit.
“It would be great for the community and for people of all ages,” said Kirby. “The Civic Center is just getting completed now so it’s something that’s not going to happen fast, but I think it would be a really good thing down the road.”
The other three items making the list of city priorities are: 1) taking action on the empty Blue Building, 2) implementing a comprehensive economic development board, and 3) analyzing city employee compensation to ensure it’s in line with comparable communities.
City officials appear headed to getting an appraisal on the Blue Building, which has been vacant for more than 11 years. A meeting has been set for Monday to allow officials to tour the Blue Building, which some local residents want to see restored.
Other residents content the Blue Building has been allowed to deteriorate to the points it’s no longer salvageable and the best course of action should be to remove the structure to open up prime downtown real estate.
Creating a comprehensive economic development board was an idea floated by Mayor Ryle Chastain due to the fact four organizations currently operate with similar missions.
The Industrial Development Board, the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street McMinnville and the Tourism Development Board are all geared toward promoting economic development within the city. However, those organizations don’t communicate regularly so they might not always be on the same page.
“There’s no synchronization between the boards,” said Kirby.
Every elected official proposed two ideas during the long-range planning session. With a mayor and six aldermen, that amounted to 14 suggestions. Officials voted on their favorite ideas to trim the list to four priorities.
As for the need to examine the city pay scale to ensure it’s in line with other communities, Sutton said, “It’s important that we recruit and retain good talent for our city.”