Winamac Park Board Eligible for DNR Grants, Seeks Guidance from Town Council

Rendering of rebuilt Winamac pool.

The Winamac Park Board is now eligible to apply for grant funding from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. DNR officials notified the town of its eligibility last month, following the completion of a five-year parks and recreation plan.

Gaining access to DNR grants was one of the main reasons the town council created the park board a year ago, especially as a way to raise funds to rebuild the town’s swimming pool. But the park board isn’t ready to begin the project just yet.

During Thursday’s meeting, board member Chris Schramm said he’s still not convinced the town has enough money to maintain a pool once it’s built. “If the town board is willing to accept a $30,000 to $40,000 loss every year to operate a pool and they sign an agreement to that effect, then okay, we can move forward,” he said. “But until we get enough money if a fund that’s going to sustain the operation of that pool, I’m not in favor of that until we get to that point. Say we have $600,000 to build the pool. We’re just going to sit there with another slab in two years because we don’t have enough money to run it? What they have so far isn’t enough money, in my opinion, to run it. We’ve got to have a separate fund for that.”

Winamac has a Recreation Fund with $40,000 budgeted annually for pool maintenance, but park board members feel their budgets are tight as they are. Park Board President Courtney Poor said a plan needs to be put together to keep the project moving ahead. “Who’s going to come up with the scheduling of when we’re going to do this because, ‘Yay! Yippee! We can now apply for grants!’ and then we just sit here? No, I don’t think so,” he said.

On top of that, Town Attorney Justin Schramm pointed out there’s a time limit on when the park board can use some of the funds raised by the Winamac Pool Committee. “About a year ago, the town, before the park board was created, signed a non-permanent endowment fund agreement with the Community Foundation,” he explained. “In that non-permanent endowment fund agreement, there was stipulated a timeline. There was a certain completion date that the pool had to begin construction and finish construction, or else the 200-and-some thousand dollars that currently sits in there is forfeited to the Community Foundation.”

But there are other issues for the park board to consider before applying for grants, including where to find potential matching funds and who’ll actually put together the applications. While the town would likely use the Kankakee-Iroquios Regional Planning Commission to help with larger grants, smaller ones could be written by someone locally. To get some guidance on how to proceed, the park board plans to schedule a joint work session with the town council.