A Letter to the Sentinel from Sara Gielser, Chair of the HCAC Board

Apr 21, 2019News

By Sara Giesler, HCAC Board Chair

When you consider the hundreds of thousands of lives our community pool has touched since 1968 — counting the over 100,000 elementary students who have received swimming lessons in just the instructional program alone — you can probably understand why the Board of Trustees of the Holland Aquatic Center believes maintaining a community aquatics center was — and still is — an important effort of our community.

Back in 2013, it was clear to us that without thoughtfully redirecting and building upon our pool’s excellent programs with new and fresh leadership, our pool would never get on the solid path to true sustainability.

It was then, after several consecutive years of operating in the red, we set course in a new, bold direction.

And thanks to the new leadership of Jack Huisingh and a tremendous staff at our pool, we went from three straight years of losses to breaking even in the very first year. Talk about an amazing turnaround!

Redirecting our organizational was hardly an easy path, and operating in the black every year since 2013 had nothing to do with luck. Rather, good people doing the right things with a caring community made it happen.

The “Renovation and Construction Bond” proposal we are asking voters to consider on the May 7 ballot reflects our new, community-focused direction.

It also reflects three years of study, discussion and considerable input on how to make sure our pool serves everyone in our community.

The board voted to place the 1.25 millage on the ballot unanimously in January after careful consideration of all of the studies, information and expert advice and analysis. One of the studies included was the Economic

Impact analysis completed by Hope College’s Frost Research Center. Here are just some of the important numbers that went into our decision:

The study showed that HCAC had approximately a $10 million impact on our community in 2018 alone.

The study showed that 90 percent of parents or guardians indicated that having a school swim program is extremely or very important.

The study showed that 91 percent of respondents felt that HCAC is a valuable asset to the local community.

We want to ensure that this valuable community asset is sustainable for years to come.

Because our current 20-year 1.0 mill bond which was approved by voters in 1998 is expiring in May, we are requesting a new 20-year 1.25 mill bond to have the funds to address the major infrastructure needs, as well as, update and construct our overall space in ways that better serve our community.

The construction and renovation millage is an opportunity to continue drowning prevention in Holland with life-saving swim lessons to over 5,000 students each year. It’s an opportunity to break down the physical and cultural barriers associated with water, so everyone can safely enjoy. It’s an opportunity to have safe, inviting space for families to gather and connect. It’s an opportunity to make this incredible asset a sustainable resource for generations to come. It’s an opportunity to continue to make Holland the best place to live, work and do business.

Simply stated, we want to have our pool be able to serve Every Age, Every Family, Every Day.

With the continued support of our community for the new course we are on, we can better balance the overall scope of our programs and services (instructional, fitness, family fun, competitive team, special needs, and wellness/therapy) by giving them all ample space with improved accessibility to grow and flourish.

We can make a more sustainable future for our pool a reality.

Thank you for your consideration on election day.

— Sara Giesler is chair of the Holland Aquatic Center’s Swimming Pool Authority. She resides in Holland.

For full story: https://www.hollandsentinel.com/opinion/20190421/my-take-hac-serves-everyone-every-day