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Council hears Steering Committe’s Cain Center Plan

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ATHENS–City Council Chambers were once again packed to hear Steve Grant present the Cain Center Plan to the City Council. Grant has headed up the steering committee since its inception in November 2018. Grant reminded the council that the work is the product of 30-35 concerned citizens with a wide variety of talents and experience who gave their time to create a viable plan.
“The cost of the project was lowered between two and two and a half million dollars,” Grant began. “bringing the total cost to $6,125,000. Grant told the group the Ginger Murchison Foundation has pledged $2.5 million in addition to $2.5 million coming from the Cain Foundation, both contingent on a Mutual Non-binding Memorandum of Intent and Understanding, and to proceed with a Special Election May 4 for the City of Athens Civic and Aquatic Center Renovation. The city’s portion is $1,125,000.
Grant also presented a letter to the city from UT Health, stating their intent to work with the city to operate a physical therapy and wellness center in the Cain Center.
The plan would make some additions to the original plan including a warm  therapy pool with a learn-to-swim area separate from the lap pool, party rooms near the pool, a flexible water park feature  and an additional exercise area overlooking the pool with cardio equipment, enabling parents to work out while watching their children in the pool below.
Grant said they developed stakeholders in the community, who would partner with the center and the city, ensuring its sustainability and enhancing the enjoyment of the center. “The success of the center is about a partnership and it should always be evolving to meet the needs of the public,” Grant said. The committee proposes a progressive management team headed up by the city.
Grant told the group three things were most important, the first being “no new taxes,” the second also, “no new taxes” and the third, financial stability keeping expenses in line while meeting the needs of the community, being broad in nature and totally inclusive.
The grants and partnerships pursued by the steering committee allows for $1,125,000 to come from the city, meaning the city can return $4,175,000 of the 2017 certificates of obligation money back, saving the city $297,000 in taxes which can go to the operation of the center. “That means 81.63 percent of the construction cost is provided by foundations,” Grant told the council.
The four subcommittees: Use Planning Committee, Physical Plant Committee, Budget, Finance and Operational Committee and Public Image Committee took time with research to find the best options to make the center serve the broadest needs of the community, be financially sustainable for years to come, incorporate community stakeholders to take an active role in the center, all while delivering on the guidelines the city gave when creating the steering committee.
Grant said, “This is not the final project and we don’t have all the answers.”
The next steps for the committee include joint workshops with the city to dive deeper into usage, finance and operation, along with increasing awareness and communication efforts to Athens’ citizens and surrounding areas. A campaign is planned to encourage the people to vote in the May 4 election to have their voice heard on the Cain Center.
A workshop is planned for Friday, April 12 at 3 p.m. at The Texan for the committee and the city to share the plan with citizens and get input. The council and the steering committee urge citizens to attend.


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