Mount Sterling Park District gets $400,000 state grant to cover half of planned improvements to city pool

Joe Oliver Memorial Swimming Pool

This drawing shows the planned improvements at the Joel Oliver Memorial Pool in Mount Sterling. | Drawing courtesy of Benton & Associates

MOUNT STERLING, Ill. — Chris Kassing was organizing a four-man scramble golf fundraiser for the Joel Oliver Memorial Pool last week in Mount Sterling when he learned about receiving a much larger grant for the pool.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced July 8 the distribution of $30.3 million in grants for 87 local park projects that will help communities acquire open space and develop and improve recreational facilities throughout Illinois.

One of those grants is for the Mount Sterling Park District, which is getting $400,000 for improvements for the pool. Kassing, who runs the Mount Sterling Park District and his own lumber company, says the grant will cover half of the cost of the planned improvements at the 30-year-old pool.

“We do the golf scramble every year, but now we’re going to have to do some different things and get things rolling here,” Kassing said. “We have about a year to raise the money.”

Plans call for a splash pad with water features to be built, as well as an addition to the pool that would allow for zero entry (a beach-type walk-in) to the kiddie pool. Kassing said some of the plumbing at the pool needs to be replaced. The plan also calls for the addition of new pumps and a new liner in the main pool at 501 N. Damon.

“It’s going to be good for the community, and it’s going to make us kind of competitive with the other two area pools (in Beardstown and Rushville) that have been built in the last couple of years,” Kassing said. “They’ve got some nice features like these, and that’s kind of what we wanted to have for the youths in the area. It was time for us to upgrade.”

Kassing said the Park District has wanted these improvements for four or five years. He said Benton & Associates, an engineering firm in Jacksonville, helped write the grant a couple of years ago.

“It has just been a waiting game since then,” he said. “Now that we have the grant, I think people will be ready to help out.”

The grants are through the state’s Open Space Land Acquisition and Development program, administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. OSLAD grants can provide up to one-half of a project’s funds. When combined with the investment of local matching funds, this year’s grants will support more than $56 million in local park development projects and land acquisitions statewide.

The OSLAD program began in 1987 and has invested $433.5 million in 1,816 local park projects. The program receives dedicated funding from a percentage of the state’s real estate transfer tax. 

“Investments in our local parks are investments in our communities,” Pritzker said in a press release. “Park projects don’t just create jobs and boost local economic development. They open the gateway for a healthier, happier Illinois. Every family in our state deserves nearby access to outdoor public spaces where they can gather with their friends and neighbors — and enjoy some sunshine, too.”

The only other grant given to west-central Illinois was $360,000 to the Macomb Park District for development at Patton Park.

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