Here’s what you need to know
- The Visalia City Council met on October 3, 2022 and endorsed the College of Sequoia’s Measure C campaign. If successful on the November ballot, Measure C will help the college bring a four-year University Center to Visalia.
- Multiple community members expressed their desire for a public aquatic center to be built.
- Council members are unsure of how they want to proceed with the aquatic center, as they have been since 2017, and did not come to a clear decision on if the facility will be built. The proposed location is on Burke and Oak Street.
Visalia City Council Members
- Liz Wynn, District One
- Brett Taylor, District Two
- Vice Mayor Brian Poochigan, District Three
- Greg Collins, District Four
- Mayor Steve Nelson, District Five
The Visalia City Council meeting took place on Monday, October 3, 2022. It began at 7:01 p.m. All city council members were present. The meeting began with the pledge and a prayer led by Vice Mayor Poochigan.
- Presentation from The Creative Center
- They are a non-profit arts center for adults with cognitive disabilities, 99 clients are currently enrolled.
- Their goal is to help clients reach goals through arts.
- City council has been supporting the center for 46 years.
- They wanted to thank the city council and staff for their help in the purchase of their new property.
- Several clients from The Creative Center expressed their thanks to the city council members.
- They donated two art pieces created by clients to the council.
- Public Comment
- Marie Line-Labbee, Visalia resident, commented on the potential aquatic facility (Consent Calendar Item 3), requesting it to be pulled from the consent calendar for discussion.
- Her concern is with long-term funding,
- She and other residents have formed an Aquatic Center Citizen Committee with the idea of creating an endowment to fund the center. They met with the Parks and Rec foundation and got one member of the board to be a liaison between both groups. There is a sub committee of 7-10 people hoping to raise the endowment,
- “The caveat is we need a competition pool, not a recreation pool,” Line-Labbee said. There are three club teams in town catering to junior high and under who play year round, but they are struggling to find enough facilities to practice.
- Line-Labbee’s comment time ended, but this item will be opened up for public comment again if it is pulled for discussion by council members.
- Consent Calendar Approval
- Endorsing College of the Sequoias (COS) proposed Measure C bond (Item 2) was pulled for discussion by Councilmember Collins.
- Councilmember Wynn pulled the request to add a discussion about the potential aquatic facility to the agenda (Item 3).
- All other items were approved unanimously.
- Item 2, Measure C Endorsement
- Brett Calvin, COS President, gave a presentation about Measure C.
- Measure C seeks to bring a four year college to Tulare County.
- Tulare County has become the second largest county in the state without a publically-funded, four-year university.
- In 2016, COS promised Fresno State a space on the COS campus if they would provide five bachelor’s programs there over the next five years. They have added two master’s programs in addition to these. This space is now known as the Fresno State South Valley Campus.
- COS initially invested $2,000,000 to support this pilot center, and believe that there is great potential for a four-year campus in Visalia.
- The Fresno State Integrated Teacher Education Program takes students with their associate’s degree and can get them their bachelor’s degree, teaching credential, and student teaching experience completed within two years, a faster process than at other schools.
- When students go to college in other cities, they tend to do their student teaching and get hired after graduation in other cities, instead of teaching here. “We have a serious brain drain issue, and this helps to alleviate that,” Calvin said.
- Calvin believes they can get 2,500-3,500 students enrolled quickly.
- Moneywise, the expected payment is $13 for every $100,000 assessed from homeowners for the bond, and this cost is estimated to get lower over the years.
- “We are doing this for the region. County, city, state, have all had 25 years to get this done,” Calvin said.
- They’re estimating yearly operating costs will be $500,000, and COS would get no revenue from Fresno State students.
- Fresno State picked the majors they currently offer at the South Valley campus because they are the most popular at the school for South Valley residents, and they are planning to add more. Grand Canyon University and Arizona State University are potential partners as well.
- Students who went to COS then Fresno State could walk away with less than $20,000 in student loan debt
- “It’s our opportunity to have a mini CSU in our county, and College of the Sequoias is proud to get it done,” Calvin said as he finished this presentation. He also noted that more information can be found at https://www.cosuniversitycenter.com/
- When the council began discussing this item, Collins said, “We’re always in need of trying to attract police men, firemen, and in the case of Kaweah Delta, nurses.” Collins offered his assistance to Calvin.
- Poochigan and Mayor Nelsen stated their support as well.
- Sam Logan publicly commented that his wife commuted to Fresno State at night for ten years, it would have been easier for her to not have to do that.
- Councilmember Taylor said, “it’s gonna be a dream to see our young kids staying here.” He moved to motion the city council’s endorsement of Measure C, Collins seconded. Motion carried 5-0.
- Item 3, Placing a Discussion for Aquatic Facilities on Future Agendas
- Wynn is “anxious” to review this item.
- The community has been in support of building an aquatic center since 2017, when Collins first brought up the idea.
- Collins spent time with the city finance director, who said they do have the money to create the aquatic center between parks and rec, state grants, private donations, and other sources.
- 70% of the public that participated in a recent city survey expressed their support for aquatic facilities.
- Burke and Oak is now the proposed location. The new inclusive playground would be across the street, and the Imagine U museum is nearby. “It would really be a children’s corner,” Collins said.
- For the population that does not have a pool, this facility could meet that need, and the need for swim lessons and supporting health through aquatic sports.
- From an economic development perspective, it would attract water polo tournaments and swim meets, bringing people who are not from here and causing them to stay in our hotels, eat here, and shop for a night or two.
- Collins said that this would enhance Visalia’s quality of life, like the Senior Corridor or Downtown has.
- Hanford, Reedley, Tulare, and Clovis North have all built pools recently, giving them the ability to attract people for various events.
- “Today, like the college, it’s time to build an aquatic center in the city,” Collins said.
- Taylor talked about his experiences growing up on the north side of Visalia and taking the bus to Redwood High School during the summers to use their pool. He said that AARPA funds and some general funds have already been established, he wants to make sure they are not used for the aquatic center. Taylor said that he wants to see progress sometime within the next year if they do move forward with discussing it.
- Poochigan said, “The question is, what does it look like, where does it go, who do we partner with?” With elections coming up soon, at least one new council member will have to be a part of this project if it moves forward.
- Nelsen said, “I’ve always said this city needs another recreational facility… something that kids can partake in.” However, he is not yet convinced that the competitive use of the pool is needed.
- He is bothered by council members saying we need pocket parks, then saying we need a pool. “We can’t have all of that,” he said.
- Nelsen also said that, “The public survey was less than 1% of the general population. I can’t put credence in that.” Nelson suggests tabling this item until 2023 when new council members have been elected, then bringing it to strategic planning sessions, letting parks and rec help, and doing a budget session.
- Irma Wheeler, Visalia resident and swim and water polo mom, mentioned that she pays money when she travels to different cities to watch her son play water polo, money that could stay here if we had a competitive pool.
- Wheeler said, “You can’t do it by yourself, but you have some parents here willing to help.” She mentioned that a recreational pool is not enough, instead we need a large pool that can be used year round. She also represents the Visalia Seahawks swim team, and says she gets hundreds of phone calls from people asking to swim.
- Dale Simmons uses Redwood High School’s pool once a year for birthday activities. Redwood’s pool is the only public pool open during the summer. She brings up points about a pool bringing increased spending in town like other commenters have. “We are big enough to support this facility. If we subsidize other programs, I would direct my tax dollars to a pool,” Simmons said.
- Juan Guerro, a Visalia Unified School District Board member, said, “I’d like to see a pool here, but I’d like to see a working relationship with the college and school district.” They tried to have joint meetings, but many had to be stopped due to the pandemic.
- Marie Line-Labbee was back to comment again, saying that there are parents with many connections who want to pour money into an aquatic center. “If you want money to be funneled into the city during tournaments… you need a location where people can go get what they need during the day,” Line-Labbee said.
- Her daughter struggles in school, but if she can be an amazing water polo player then she has a shot at college. One Visalia swim team of ten year olds played in Farmersville but that pool broke, so now they have to practice from 7 to 10 p.m. She emphasized the need for it to be competitive.
- Michael Cavele, former swim parent of Seahawks and Redwood water polo, said “I think we need to thank Greg Collins for the effort he’s put into this… we’ve been discussing this long enough. I think it’s a slap to Greg’s face to say we’re going to wait until the election is done.”
- Major Rogers, who has coached water polo at Redwood for ten years said, “When I travel, I seek out community pools. There’s a line to get into them. It’s needed.”
- Many graduates of Visalia aquatics don’t want to have to join a gym like In-Shape to keep swimming. Clovis middle schools have pools equivalent or better to our high school pools, their high school pools “put us to shame,” Rogers said.
- Parents can send their kids here for baseball, football, and other sports, but not swim. “I’m trying to build a program that doesn’t get embarrassed when we move to Division 1 like we did,” Rogers said.
- “At the end, if we’re going to come down to fairness, I believe every sport should be represented fairly. We have hundreds if not thousands of kids who are not being represented fairly because of facilities,” Rogers said.
- Wynn mentioned that we need to move forward, but we have to be practical with funding and public input. The public survey input was a starting point, so she would support making this a priority for the current parks and rec director.
- Comments went back to Collins, who would like to see this come back to our next meeting. “I would like to see this council come forward and give an expression of ‘we’d like to see this happen’”, Collins said.
- He has been through meetings for various other sports, and the council never says they cannot fund them. He said there is a need for the recreational and competitive portion of the center.
- The location can be debated, but the Burke and Oak one is good because it’s in a census district where we can get state grant funds to help assist in building it. “We didn’t have to wait five years for a pickleball court… we just did it, and i think that’s enhanced the quality of life,” Collins said.
- Taylor said, “If you’re trying to compare this to football or soccer, the cost of maintaining a football field is nothing compared to the cost of maintaining a pool.” That’s why the council has asked for so much time and planning in this. He doesn’t want to take money they’ve been setting aside for years for other projects just because this is a newer and flashy thing, Taylor said.
- Poochigan agrees we need a facility, but said that every high school has a swimming pool. Football stadiums are shared throughout the high schools. Every sport is fighting to find field time wherever they go, it’s not just swimming.
- “The city of Visalia doesn’t do things for certain groups, we do things for everyone,” Poochigan said. There is a need for the center, he says it should go next to the inclusionary park because it would create the kids corner, but it does not necessarily have to be the Oaks and Burke location.
- Nelsen mentions that to his knowledge, no entity has come forward saying they’d like to help. Comparing Clovis pools is irrelevant because those are school pools, the city has no input on school pools.
- Nelsen said, “What we’re saying is give us time, we will put this in a strategic plan, we will table it, we will give it to the new parks and rec director to deal with, we will do a study.”
- He said that he is willing to discuss the aquatic facility, but not willing to get started with it tonight. The discussion has to be done with Visalia Unified School District and COS, we need to know if they have capabilities and funding to partner. A committee has to be put together for discussion. Nelsen again advocates to table this for a strategic planning date.
- Poochigan motions to approve Collins request to discuss the center, but have parks and rec look at it. Taylor seconds the motion, Collins opposes, motion passes 4-1.
- Meeting adjourned
The meeting adjourned at 8:15 p.m. The next City Council meeting will be held on Monday, October 17, at 7 p.m.
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