The district has nearly quadrupled the number of program participants since passing the 5-year operation levy in 2013.

HOLLY M. GILL - Joe McHaney, executive director of the Madras Aquatic Center Recreation District, has seen a huge uptick in program and facility use over the past four years.
The Madras Aquatic Center Recreation District is gearing up for an all out effort to renew the district's five-year operating levy on Nov. 7.

According to Joe McHaney, executive director of the MACRD, the levy, first passed by voters in May 2013, added 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to the permanent levy of 25 cents per $1,000, to enable the aquatic center to remain operational.

"Without the option levy, the district would drastically change because our services would dramatically decrease," said McHaney. "We've stretched dollars and leveraged with grants, sponsorships, donations and fundraisers and we're very hopeful to maintain and sustain current programs for the long haul."

"It's about 45 percent of our budget," he said, noting that the option levy brings in an additional $250,000 per year.

The district's five-member board of directors — Chairman Steve Webb, vice chairman Jinnell Lewis, Larry Layton, Martti Rahi and Greg Tippett — unanimously approved the resolution to refer the renewal of the five-year local option tax levy back in July, "because it clearly gives us the capability of maintaining the aquatic center," he said.

"It also provides adequate staffing for safety, and it allows us to reach out and do additional programs that attract patrons," said McHaney. "We've nearly quadrupled our participation over the past four year of the levy; it's gone from about 400 per year to more than 1,500 (participants). That's programs — not counting the open recreational swims."

Admission revenue for the open swims is up 37 percent, with 40 percent of the total coming from out of district. "We're seeing up to about 80,000 visitors per year," he said.

The district has six full-time equivalent employees, plus 25-30 part-time employees, who serve as lifeguards, and recreation and facility assistants. Full-time employees include Gregg Markwardt, aquatic and recreation director; Tim Nelson, Madras Swim Team coach and aquatic manager; Michelle Camphouse, office manager; Lauren Simmons, community relations coordinator; and Steele Haugen, recreation assistant. McHaney, Camphouse, Simmons and Haugen also assist in managing and helping out at Kids Club through a memorandum of understanding that has been in place since McHaney was named director in March 2014.

For the 2017-18 fiscal year, the district has an operating budget of $1,240,578, and must also pay $725,674 for the building bonds, which will be paid off in 2025. "We did refinancing in 2016," said McHaney. "We were able to take advantage of some lower rates; it will save just under $800,000 in the final 10 years of the 15-year loan."

The MAC offers "a plethora of aquatic programs, such as the Madras Swim Team, water polo, water aerobics, private and public swim lessons, and seven days a week, we have recreational swims (with extended hours)," he said.

Out-of-water programs include youth basketball, soccer, softball, volleyball, flag football, tackle football, and exercise classes, such as mat Pilates, Insanity and personal training, as well as running events, such as last Saturday's MAC Dash, the November Turkey Trot, and a partnership on the Todd Beamer Run in July.

Last month, the MAC offered passes for visitors in town for the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. "The same weekend last year, we netted about $1,700; this year, we were over $34,000 — it was huge," said McHaney. "We had about 3,000 heads more than we see on a normal weekend. We sold out all our prepasses for Saturday and Sunday, and we went from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m."

"We were fortunate to be able to have staffing to handle big events, such as a solar eclipse," he said. "The guests were extremely impressed with the facility; they were loving the views."

Over the past few years, he said, "We've cleaned up all our debt outside of the building bond, including a $90,000 operating loan. We've tackled big maintenance projects, such as the $55,000 pool tile repair, and a $51,000 boiler replacement."

"We also entered into an energy savings program through Energy Trust of Oregon," he said, outlining the projects. "We updated to LED lighting throughout the facility; we've recommissioned our boiler system, HVAC system and solar system on the roof. We fine tuned it and got it up to working at 100 percent efficiency; we will be saving up to $30,000 in utility costs per year."

"With the current levy support, the MACRD has been able to build a broad range of recreational activities that promote fun and health for all ages in our community and I hope local voters recognize that and continue to support our mission," said Lewis, of the MACRD Board of Directors.

McHaney agreed, adding, "We're bringing in a lot of dollars to our community's economy through the use of the MAC: water polo and swim meets, in addition to open recreation swims, bringing in teams for recreation programs like flag football. Those folks are eating and gasing up here; they're staying in hotels for two-day tournaments."

"We have strong partnerships with the county for the use of Juniper Hills Park, and our partnership with 509-J is also valuable. We do pay for some facility use, but they're very generous with their youth programs," he said.

"When I first started, we were hosting about 80 swim lessons per summer; we instructed just over 300 this summer," said McHaney. "The magnitude of that is huge. We are trying to attract a wide array of users, not just pool users. We're trying to provide programming for the general public. The community has invested so much in facility — $8.1 million to build it — I'd hate to see that investment go away; we're trending in the right way now."

Stressing that the district is asking for a renewal of the five-year operations levy — not for more money, McHaney said that the public seems to appreciate what the district is doing.

"People are seeing the value to what we do," he said. "That's a testament to the board and staff putting in the hours to make it a successful recreation district for our community."

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