A determined and enthusiastic crowd nearly filled the Weed City Council chambers last Thursday to let the city’s Rec and Park District board know what the community wants in a redesigned and rebuilt Weed Community Center.
The board called the meeting specifically to gather input and ideas from the public and to allow building designer firm Schlumpberger Consulting Engineers to describe their building plans to date.
At least 10 people addressed the board with the same request – build a pool area and workout space into the design plans for the new center – and each speaker was supported with applause from the crowd.
Speakers talked about the value provided by the Mountain Fitness Wellness Center gym equipment, sauna and hot tub, and warm salt water pool the community enjoyed before the Boles Fire destroyed the community center last September.
Mountain Fitness co-owner Linda Stremmel explained at the meeting that her business will not return when the community center is rebuilt. “It was a struggle for us financially. We were proud to provide the service to Weed, and we did our best,” she said.
Revenue from the Wellness Center’s lease helped fund maintenance and operation of the community center, and the business managed, maintained, and operated the amenities. Without that arrangement in place, replacing the pool area and workout facility poses a challenge.
“We have enough money to replace the building the way it was. What we don’t have is the money to sustain the pool,” district board member Sue Tavalero explained at the meeting.
District administrator Mike Rodriguez said, “We’re hoping to find a vendor, a partner to run that program. We want to make this center outstanding for everyone, but we have to be able to sustain it.”
Weed Mayor Bob Hall, who spoke at the meeting as a community member and frequent user of the pool, said he understood the issue was not about building the pool, but about sustaining it.
“As a community we need to look and find a way to do this. A vendor would be ideal, but maybe there are other ways. It’s got to be doable,” he said.
An ad hoc committee was formed to find and investigate funding and other resources to sustain a pool area and workout space in the new Weed Community Center.
Retired gerontology nurse Mary Beth Granberry, herself a senior, pointed to the cardiovascular benefits of moving from the heat of a sauna to cooler pool water.
She also spoke about the benefits in “keeping your elderly and your community connected,” referencing the social aspect of participation at the facility.
“This is something we could do to shine in the county – to have a state of the art wellness center in Weed,” she said.
Pat Matthews agreed, and said it would be beneficial for the city. “It’s important to the citizens here, and to those who will come here. A complete center would be a draw for new arrivals and an asset to the entire Weed community.”
Matthews pointed out that local children and families also enjoyed use of the pool and workout area.
Peggy Soletti recalled the health and social benefits of the classes offered at the center, including water aerobics, line dancing, and spin classes.
“We were so excited when we got that facility. We need it back,” she said, adding that she also was speaking for many community residents who couldn’t attend the meeting.
Mel Borcalli called the pool “a big necessity for our community. You could always tell when the busy hours were because that pool would be full.” She acknowledged the high cost of heating a pool and hot tub, and suggested that solar panels on the building could bring that cost down.
Linda Barbieri suggested that Weed had “always taken a back seat,” and that the city ought to have its own fine wellness facility. “If we have the right equipment in there, it’ll pay for itself,” she said.
Lynette Schmidt told the board that she’d tried to use the outdoor Weed community pool, but found it extremely difficult to get in and out of, given its lack of accessibility.
Strongly advocating for the pool to be rebuilt in the new community center, Schmidt said, “We seniors need rehab more than anybody.”
Later in the meeting Rodriguez reported that a handicap lift had been ordered for the outdoor pool and would be installed in time for next season.
Weed city councilor Ken Palfini, speaking as a private citizen, said he felt sure the community had made their wishes known clearly to the board, and told them “I think now it’s all about resources.”
He mentioned the Family and Community Resource Center of Weed, the Rec and Park District, the senior community, local hospitals, College of the Siskiyous, and private enterprise as some likely partners in the project.
Granberry said that, to her knowledge, “healthcare has money. Financing is actually a very limited problem.”
Barbieri told the board that Shasta Regional Hospital has bought the clinic in Weed. “They want to be part of our community. They’re happy to be coming to Weed,” she reported.
Grant funding, possible private enterprise tenant, collaboration with local schools and COS, and strong effort by the community were all spoken of as possible ways to achieve what the community wants in the center.
Hall said one of his guiding principals might apply to the situation. “We can’t expect anything. We have to make it happen.”
Building plans to date
Chuck Schlumpberger spoke about constriants in engineering and design due to new city, state, and energy codes implemented since the original building was constructed. Parking improvement, interior sprinklers, and ADA compliance will also be factors as the design takes shape, he said.
“As to the structural integrity of the building itself, we’re designing a much stronger structure. We’ll fit in whatever the district and the community wants in there,” he said.
He told the board that the design for the new center so far includes a larger kitchen, bigger bathrooms, and additional storage.
Rec and Park board president Martin Nicholas reminded the crowd that that means “we still have three quarters of a building to plan, which is why we’re here to get your input.”
Reese Miller, a designer employed by Schlumpberger, said the most logical place to build a pool would be downstairs in the two story facility planned.
“We can utilize the whole site, including a full basement space, since the old retaining walls were dug out after the fire,” he explained.
Rodriguez said the district is still meeting with the insurance adjustors, and working on determining the full amount available for construction.