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Pool bond passes with big margin

Hugs, tears and laughter filled the Wasco County Clerk’s office Tuesday night at the news that Measure 33-80, a $3.7 million bond measure to replace the decaying Ted Walker Pool was passing by a 20 percent margin.

The final, unofficial tally from the only measure on a Wasco County ballot was 2,521 yes, to 1,655 no, a yes tally of more than 60 percent. Turnout was 51 percent, said Wasco County Clerk Linda Brown.

“Delighted,” said Scott Green, executive director of Northern Wasco County Parks and Recreation District. “Ecstatic. A lot of work went into this by the people in this room, and a lot of people outside this room, too.

“We know the pool we have isn’t going to be functional much longer, so this is huge for the community.” The existing pool is 75 years old and is experiencing rusting rebar and failing concrete. The park district’s insurance company has restricted coverage on the structure and for the past several years has required an engineer’s inspection twice each year to assess the pool’s structural integrity and safety.

Green said the work would soon begin to develop a request for proposals for pool construction and emphasis would be placed on getting all the elements possible within the specified bond amount.

“Quite a few people wrote and came on down to say ‘you’ve failed two times, give it up,’” Green said. “But no, we didn’t give it up because we know it’s right for the community.”

Catherine Whalen, parks district board chair, said she felt more confident in the success of the measure partly because of the lower cost and partly because the measure received support from all of the key community groups, including some that didn’t support the previous two proposals.

Not only will the new pool provide summer fun for the community’s children, Whalen said, it will also provide economic benefit to the community by drawing people here.

“It’s going to be a destination thing,” Whalen said. “People from Hood River are probably going to come to The Dalles so they can climb the rock wall and dive off the diving board. It also expands how many swim meets we can have.”

The pool width has been expanded to include an eighth lane, which makes it eligible to host regional meets that require a minimum of eight lanes, Green explained. The 25-meter width will also allow the high school swim team to practice at the future pool.

The pool’s 50-meter length is also popular and larger than many municipal pools. The moving bulkhead in the pool will allow it to be used in a variety of configurations. The pool lanes will be striped in both directions, Green said.

The $3.7 million bond issue will pay to replace the existing pool with a slightly wider version, add a few amenities and relocate the district offices to the Thompson Park site. The estimated average cost to property owners will be about 28.6 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or about $4.44 per month on a $150,000 house. The plan is to mature the bonds in 16 years or less.

The move from their current East Fourth Street offices will save the district about $19,000 in office rental and better allow district employees to monitor activities at the park, which sees thousands of visits every summer.

A concession area is also included in the plans, which could provide not only snacks, but grill foods, too. The concession area at the Pendleton pool generates about $60,000 in revenue, Green said.

The development would include other recreational amenities. The pool would feature a transparent climbing wall, which can be removed for swim meets. Grandstands and a collection of tables with shade umbrellas will also be placed within the pool’s fenced perimeter. Additional picnic tables, some under shade, will be added to the park area outside the pool, surrounding the splash park, which has already been funded through an Oregon State Parks grant.

Minor irrigation system improvements are also planned using bond funding to allow for maintenance of a community lawn area south of the pool.

In addition to the amenities paid for by the bond, a grant-funded splash park is also planned at Thompson Park in lieu of a wading pool.

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