A group that has been studying the feasibility of building a community/wellness center in the area decided Thursday to push ahead with the effort, citing a very favorable feasibility study and a growing need in the area.
Full disclosure: Readers should know I’ve been a member of that group since its inception and have been one of many considering the idea since long before that.
After deciding by consensus to move ahead, the steering committee for the effort decided where it should be located and gave it a temporary name.
The Coulee Regional Wellness Center effort will focus on building on land across SR 174 from Coulee Medical Center. The eight-plus acre triangle was purchased by CMC this fall for about $118,000, with future development in mind, including the possibility of a “wellness center.”
That land stretches from along the feeder canal, adjoins an area that is part of North Dam Park and comes to a point at SR 155. It does not include the land on which Hometown Pizza sits. Nor does it include the grain elevators directly across SR 174 from the hospital.
The site is the most accessible in the area because of its nearness to the two-highway junction. Its visibility would be important in possible plans to market a year-round pool and waterpark to tourists. And the center would likely include features useful to the medical community such as a therapy pool.
CMC’s interest in the project led to a joining of efforts with the Coulee Area Park and Recreation District. CAPRD has been struggling to find a way to build a swimming pool for the area for several years and took up the interest in a community center after a “Horizons” study group hatched the idea as a means to address several community needs.
The two entities obtained grant funding for a comprehensive feasibility study whose author said last summer the results were so positive that he had to recheck his figures several times.
A wellness/community center could include the long-sought indoor swimming pool and aquatic center, public exercise equipment area, conference meeting space with a commercial-grade kitchen and more. Several people have also suggested a daycare facility as part of the mix.
All that will have to become part of a community discussion, along with possible funding sources for a new community facility that would directly provide 17 well-paying jobs and likely more through economic effects.
The steering group decided to meet monthly in the hospital’s training room. Future efforts will include detailed research, including gathering and encouraging community input. A “future site of … sign” may appear soon along the highway to help spur discussion.
The informal group has included input from many people over the last year, including representatives from the cities and the Colville Tribes. The meeting Thursday was led by CMC’s Chief Executive Officer J. Scott Graham. Also attending were Chief Operating Officer Allen Wagner, CAPRD Chairman Phil Hansen, community member Bill Black, CMC Public Relations Director Debbie Bigelow, Hospital District 6 commissioners Geary Oliver and Greg Behrens, and Bureau of Reclamation Public Affairs Officer Lynne Brougher, and myself, with notes taken by CMC administrative assistant Sommer Hicks.