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"Pool outpacing fund driveWith 2-3 months before completion, money is short."
"Taps opened Friday afternoon at the new Don Nakata Memorial Pool, for a landmark leak test as the facility and its 250,000-gallon tank near completion.Construction is outpacing the park district's ability to pay for it, though, as volunteers continue a campaign to tap local donors for $500,000 in private funding.In fact, the district is still $175,000 short of what it needs to pay for the bare bones facility - with a mid-September or early October opening date looming. We were, and are, very confident that the capacity is there to raise the money, said Dave Lewis, Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District director. There's a lot of potential there, and when if it comes to fruition, we'll be in pretty good shape.Confidence, though, is just one of the faces Lewis and other district officials are wearing. The other is concern.Sources told the Review that a May 29 meeting between park and school board members - held in executive session, under the legal umbrella of potential litigation - addressed issues of pool funding, and what the legal ramifications might be if the fund drive falls short.Lewis acknowledged Friday that the pool was discussed at that meeting, and said officials with both districts needed to explore those issues with counsel. We're all in hot water if we can't cover the costs, Lewis said.One tangible result did come out of the closed-door meeting: school officials tentatively agreed to pay for landscaping outside the complex, which sits on school property next to the Ray Williamson Pool.That, and construction of a required sidewalk from the pool to Madison Avenue, would be a commitment of about $65,000; the agreement was confirmed by both Lewis and school board president Ken Breiland this week.Now, Lewis said, the public needs to be aware of the status of pool funding as well.Inside the pool building, contractors were at work this week on an array of tasks, from plumbing to concrete finishing work. The leak test was highly anticipated.In fact, the building is progressing so rapidly on the school campus that park officials believe the public may have forgotten the urgency of the fund-raising drive now under way.People see that and think 'they're building it, they must have all the money they need,' Lewis said. Not so. When the district went before voters with the $4.5 million pool levy in February 1999, backers promised to supplement those public funds with $500,000 raised through private donations. That pledge is still considered key to the success of the levy, after several earlier attempts had failed at the polls.An all-volunteer fund drive was launched this past winter, under the direction of former park board member Bob Silver.Big-dollar donors were targeted first, anchored by a contribution of $100,000 from Bainbridge Rotary for naming rights to the facility.Hopes were buttressed again a week ago, with an anonymous pledge of $100,000 from a single donor.Another contributor so far includes American Marine Bank, which has pledged $15,000 - an amount that may be matched by another local business. A dozen or so contributions in the $5,000-$10,000 range have trickled in, with past and present park board members and district employees combining to commit $25,000 of their own so far.All told, the drive is about at the $325,000 mark, Lewis said Friday, with the small-donor phase of the drive to kick in this summer. Officials also hope to tap sources outside the community. The district has grant applications totaling $300,000 with nine different corporations or foundations.Once that $500,000 goal is met, the basic facility will be paid for. But fundraising is expected to continue in the future, to pay for such add-ons as lockers, a sound system, water play equipment and an ozone system for ventilation.Another big-dollar item - a lengthy water slide that would send swimmers spiraling in a figure-eight outside the building, and deposit them back in the pool - is accommodated by the design, but would cost an additional $80,000 or so beyond the half-million dollars presently sought. A stairwell and slide platform have been constructed as part of the building, but the opening will be walled off until the slide can be added.Lewis said that if the fund drive is still short when the pool is completed this fall, the district may have to put off other capital projects and equipment purchases, diverting general budget funds until they can be replenished later.One way or another, we're going to open the pool this fall, Lewis said. "