The Grant County Court agreed to hold a work session on a new public swimming pool with stakeholders and community representatives sometime in September.
Rob Raschio, who brought the idea to the court Aug. 14 and is the court’s official representative for pool talks, said the goal is to develop a plan for constructing a new pool to replace the Gleason Pool in John Day and for funding annual operations and maintenance.
Judge Scott Myers noted that, as a work session open to the public, those invited to attend could speak, but no public comment would be taken. Commissioner Jim Hamsher emphasized that representatives from communities around Grant County should be invited.
The city of John Day, which owns Gleason Pool, has publicly discussed replacing the pool since December 2018 and hired pool consultants Counsilman-Hunsaker and Opsis Architecture to provide design options.
The city’s reasoning in the past included three key elements: Gleason Pool is 60 years old and expensive to maintain; the state will provide the city about $1 million in cash and grants for the city park land and pool site, a windfall that could be used to build another pool facility; and the state will use the land to build a new Kam Wah Chung interpretative center that will significantly contribute to the economic development of the John Day area.
Raschio said the city intends to close Gleason Pool after the 2020 season, but the pool could continue to operate for another three years under a tentative agreement with the state if a plan exists to replace it. He said about 400 children participated in the recent John Day and district swim meets, which brought in money for local businesses from visiting families.
Raschio also presented the results of John Day’s online survey, which saw responses from 230 residents, of which 97% live within 30 miles of John Day. About 97% of respondents agreed that Grant County should have a public swimming pool, and 70% of respondents agreed the pool should be funded by all users. A majority also wanted to see a facility that included an indoor basketball court and exercise and weight-lifting rooms.
During an April 2 meeting at the Grant County Regional Airport, swim team representative Haley Walker said target figures were $4.5 million for construction of a new pool and about $100,000 per year for operation, maintenance and a future pool replacement fund.
That amount of money is beyond the funding capacity of either the city of John Day or the John Day-Canyon City Parks & Recreation District, which has operated Gleason Pool for the city.
Suggested funding solutions have included expanding the current Parks & Recreation taxing district, which the board so far opposes; creating a new service district with a tax base that includes John Day, Canyon City, Mt. Vernon, Prairie City, Seneca and perhaps other communities, as John Day City Manager Nick Green has described; or funding the pool countywide.
Grant School District 3 is a stakeholder in support of maintaining a public swimming pool in Grant County, but Raschio noted that the school district lacks the funding to build or maintain a pool.
Raschio said a John Day-budgeted feasibility study will cover the costs of drafting a ballot measure for a bond to pay for construction of a new pool. The ballot measure would need approval by the county court to be sent out to voters countywide.
Myers noted that the court issued ballot measures in the past, but that didn’t mean they supported the proposal. Judy Kerr took issue with that point, suggesting that if the court approves sending the ballot measure to voters, the public will assume the court supports it.
Hamsher emphasized that pool supporters need to engage communities around the county if they expect the ballot measure to succeed.
The first step is to decide if the public wants a pool, Raschio said. The next step would be to find out who would pay for it.
In other county court news:
• The court agreed with the Airport Commission’s recommendation and approved another five-year consulting engineer contract with T-O Engineers of Boise. There were two applicants and the scoring was close, Airport Manager Haley Walker said.
The court also approved a five-year lease with the Forest Service for three concrete helipads south of the terminal, as recommended by the Airport Commission. The lease expired Sept. 30, 2018, and was renegotiated. The price will increase by 2.5% per year to $18,390 for the year ending Sept. 30, 2023.
The airport will advertise for repairs to the terminal building, including exterior painting and staining, interior settling and crack repair and interior water damage.
• Stephen Baldwin, Haley Olson and Kelly McGirr were appointed to the Grant County Planning Commission.
• The court approved a public records request policy. Hamsher said the policy was approved by the attorney for Prairie City. It was modified with county language and reviewed and updated by the county counsel, he said.
Commissioner Sam Palmer said Sheriff Glenn Palmer told him he would look at the new policy and decide if he would continue to use current sheriff’s office policy or change to the new policy.