As sure as spring follows winter, Walla Walla residents have plunged once more into the swimming pool issue as the temperatures start to rise.
Memorial Pool was closed in 2006 because of the need for costly repairs and because attendance had dropped so low that expenses were lapping revenue.
After two failed attempts to come up with a plan to provide a swimming pool/aquatic center for local residents, the city — at the urging of the Rebuild Memorial Pool committee — is back to examining square one: What would it take to reopen Memorial Pool?
It’s a smart decision to invest the $7,500 for a study by Rowly International of Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., to explore the options. The fee is about one-third of what it takes to hold an election on a bond issue. And it shows the city is listening to the public. The lack of a municipal swimming pool was the second leading concern in last year’s city survey. It trailed only the need to fix streets.
The study will look at a several options, including deepening and widening the pool, removing the diving section, adding a zero depth entry, improving the concrete decking and what kind of liner to use. The study is expected to be completed in the next several weeks.
Whether the study’s recommendations will hold any water with the community will likely depend on the funding options. It has been suggested the pool could be paid for with private donations, grants, a voter-approved bond or levy, Council-approved bonds and/or from the city’s general fund. Each of these options and combinations of options have benefits and drawbacks. Council would be wise to thoroughly vet these and make sure it has substantial community support before proceeding.
No one seems to oppose a pool — although there will be the detracters who will hold out hope for a more elaborate aquatic center — but the costs have helped torpedo two bonds already.
Pool supporters need to jump in and build momentum for getting this accomplished. Everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction.
Supporters also need to understand that even if no city funds were needed to refurbish Memorial Pool — an unlikely scenario — there will still be the issue of the operational costs.
Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dumont has pointed out some municipal pools break even while others require a steady flow of city funds. Council may need to consider asking voters for a levy to fund those continuing costs, he said.
If all of this isn’t added into the equation and carefully explained to the public, this effort will sink like a stone.