By Carol Broeder and David Abbott
The proposed Cobre Valley Regional Aquatic Center (CVRAC) just might help foster better communication among family, friends and neighbors, improve the overall health of residents in the Globe-Miami area and make it more attractive to businesses that want to set up shop locally.
That is what Evelyn Vargas said in her July 30 presentation to the Gila County Board of Supervisors, calling the estimated $6 million to build CVRAC, and the attendant operational budget “an investment, not a cost.”
Vargas said that by not providing amenities such as an aquatic center, “We’re saying, ‘Don’t live here,’” to prospective residents.
Perhaps even more important is the message being given to area youths.
“It is important to invest in the next generation, just as prior generations had invested in us,” CCYS Globe-Miami Piranhas Coach Barry Schwenk said.
Vargas gave the example of a mother and child interaction she witnessed recently at a local grocery store. A young girl was sitting in the shopping cart crying while her mother was focused on texting with her cellphone.
She said she felt compelled to hug the child, to comfort her and ask if she was in pain or hungry or in need of a diaper change. Once the mother had completed the text, she handed the phone over to the girl.
The message to the child, Vargas believed, is that the mother wanted only to quiet her, not find out what was wrong. She said there could be direct correlations to incidents of teen suicide.
“If we don’t provide the kids what they need, that’s what we get,” she said.
Vargas said that, in the digital age, an aquatic center might help foster better human interactions in the community.
“People don’t want to take their cellphones into the pool,” she said, eliciting a laugh from the standing-room-only audience.
Vargas has been a leading voice in the effort to create something of a gem in the heart of the Globe-Miami corridor. The CVRAC board has worked on the project for nearly six years, since the pool at the Globe Community Center was shuttered in 2014.
The CVRAC is proposed in two phases.
The first is to secure funding for the center’s maintenance and operations (M&O), which includes staffing, supplies, utilities, etc. The estimated yearly cost is $350,000.
The second phase is raising capital—an estimated $6 million—to build the facility.
The purpose of the work session was to discuss Phase I, as BHP is poised to donate a 19-acre parcel once dedicated sources of funding for M&O is secured.
Vargas and other presenters cited the aquatic center in Florence, which costs nearly $350,000 to operate, as a model of what could work here.
“The same type of design would be perfect for Globe-Miami,” Vargas said.
Vargas said that, currently, the Town of Miami pays about $65,000 to operate Hostetler Pool.
As for the City of Globe, a structural integrity study of the Globe pool is currently underway .
Globe City Council recently authorized an assessment to be conducted by certified structural engineers. The study should give both council and the citizens of Globe some answers, Vargas said.
With the approval of council, if the Globe pool is deemed safe, the city would put up to $125,000 toward its M&O to keep the pool operational until the CVRAC is built.
But if the funds from both Miami and Globe were instead transferred to proposed aquatic center’s M&O, it would total $190,000, Vargas said. She asked the Supervisors to consider funding the remaining $160,000 for a total of $350,000 annually.
Several other stakeholders gave their input, to emphasize the project’s benefits the local economy, work environment and overall health of the community.
Ryan Brossart, director of physical therapy at Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center, said that he has currently 50 to 100 patients that could benefit from the aquatic therapy a swimming pool would offer. When patients ask about it, Brossart tells them, “We’re working on it.”
City of Globe Economic Development Director Linda Oddonetto called the aquatic center “an exciting project” with potentially greater returns than investment.
She pointed out that other communities have traveling aquatic teams, like the CCYS Globe-Miami Piranhas, who would use the aquatic center for their meets, thus contributing to the local economy through money spent at restaurants, hotels and other amenities.
Oddonetto also said that the aquatic center could help with the “employee leakage” problem, in that people work in Globe-Miami but live elsewhere.
While the supervisors agreed it is a great project, they expressed concerns about the $6 million price tag to build the facility.
They asked for more information from the CVRAC Board regarding its “strategic action plan,” to acquire funds. “We will turn every stone and look into every corner, “ Vargas said.
Calling it “a great project to benefit this area,” County Manager James Menlove nonetheless pointed out that, with similar issues in Northern Gila County, the $160,000 request could easily turn into a $320,000 request for the supervisors.
Menlove offered the finance department’s help in supporting the CVRAC Board in its efforts.
State Sen. Frank Pratt, Dist. 8, also attended the work session, receiving a “copper splash” from Vargas and the CVRAC Board as a thank you for for his “dedication, commitment and vision for what an aquatic center could mean to the citizens of Globe-Miami.”
“It is an honor and a pleasure to support this community,” Pratt said. “Any way that I can help, I stand ready.”
While the last three bills in the Arizona State Legislature did not pass, Pratt is 100% committed to the project, Vargas said.
“Together we can own this project and make our community thrive,” Vargas said.
The latest version of the bill was introduced to the State Legislature in January.
Known as State Bill No.1257, it passed by a 26-4 vote in the Senate, but did not make it to the House floor for a vote and died.
Award winning journalist with over 18 years experience in covering local news and issues affecting rural communities. Married 37 years, my life has taken me from Phoenix to Willcox to Globe. My husband and I are both overjoyed to find ourselves in Globe-Miami, with its rich history and sense of community. This is truly home.