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Park district board contemplates pool closure

Even as district voters open ballots and begin to vote on whether to replace the swimming pool at Thompson Park with a new facility, the Northern Wasco County Park and Recreation District board is contemplating whether opening the pool this coming summer is a viable option.

An annual fall report conducted by Tenneson Engineering Corporation and submitted to the board Oct. 16 noted that “This structure continues to deteriorate. It’s remaining serviceable span, in my opinion, is extremely limited.”

The report cited an increase over the past year of “spalding,” concrete breaking away from the visible underside of the pool deck (the ceiling of the mechanical room), and noted that cracks in the concrete “appear to be increasing in size and extent.”

In past reports, the board was told that an extensive evaluation using information drawn from core drilling and ground penetrating radar would eventually be needed. That time is now: “If a decision is made by the District Board to reopen the pool in 2014, please contact my office to discuss further evaluations,” the report notes. The report also recommends daily inspections of the structure, and any accumulated debris greater then 6 inches square immediately reported both to the district and Tenneson Engineering.

The evaluation is estimated to cost between $7,000 and $10,000, and will require two or three months to complete. This cost would be in addition to significant operational cost increases over the past few years, said Executive Director Scott Green. He added that there was no knowing what the results of the tests would be.

“We could do the tests and still not be able to open the pool,” he said, given the report’s conclusion that the serviceable span of the current pool was “extremely limited.”

The spring and fall engineering reports were first requested by the district five years ago, Green noted. At that time, the usable life of the pool was estimated at from “three to five years.”

Since then, the district has lost all but liability insurance on the facility, and that insurance requires approval from Tenneson Engineering before the pool opens each spring.

“We need to decide whether we can afford to open the pool this spring,” Green told the board at its Oct. 18 meeting. In addition to the study required, operational costs have risen 40 percent in the past few years.

“It’s costing a ton to run this,” he said.

“It’s no grey area for me,” said board member Dean Dollarhide. “Look at the money we’re losing. This pool is 75 years old, we know it’s past its lifespan. If we vote to close it now, people who use the pool in each summer will have time to arrange for alternatives,” he added.

Council member Nikki Lesich said she would prefer to review the new information further, as it was submitted to the board on the day of the meeting, and delay a vote to the November meeting. “We should let the voters decide (whether or not to fund a new pool), without the distraction of our closing the pool next year.”

Board president Catherine Whalen noted that the board was in a “no win” situation. “If we close it now, people will say we were trying to force them to vote yes for the new pool. If the bond fails, and we close it then, people will say we are being punitive.”

Green noted that if the bond passes, it is possible but unlikely that the new pool would be completed in time for the summer season.

“Basically, we are looking at it being closed one year [if the bond passes] or two or more years [if the bond fails],” he said, noting that a pool requires numerous permits be issued by the state.

In the end, the board agreed unanimously to postpone a final decision on closing the pool until the November meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Nov. 20, at the district office at 414 Federal Street.

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