Plans for a new pool in Grant County appear to have dried up.
The city of John Day no longer plans to move forward with a proposal to ask voter approval for a bond for construction and a taxing district for operations costs for a replacement for Gleason Pool after the Canyon City City Council voted against a resolution supporting the taxing district June 21, City Manager Nick Green said.
Canyon City voted 4-1 against the resolution, joining Mt. Vernon, which had already voted against the proposal. Without the cities’ support, they could not be included in the taxing district, which was planned to cover John Day, Canyon City, Mt. Vernon, Prairie City, Seneca and their rural fire districts, rendering the project infeasible.
“This ends discussions on this,” Green said. “There’s no further refinement that’s going to happen on our part. We’re not going to try to restructure the district to have it be just John Day paying for a pool in Grant County.”
Gleason Pool planned to close at the end of this season but never opened because of COVID-19.
Green said the city will continue with its plan to sell the pool property to the state to create a new Kam Wah Chung interpretive center.
Green said it is time for Grant County residents who want a public swimming pool to make their voices heard with their elected officials who declined to give them an opportunity to vote on the proposal.
After the vote, Canyon City Mayor Steve Fischer said, even with the decision, he hopes there can be a regrouping in the future to further discuss possibilities of a pool in the county — principally, the possibility of repairing Gleason Pool.
Green was disappointed the jurisdictions that voted no to the plan lacked an alternative or counter proposal. While Fischer and representatives from the Grant County Farm Bureau focused on repairing Gleason Pool, Green said that the option was not feasible.
“That has never been an option for us,” Green said, referring to an estimate from the city’s consulting team of repair costs between $540,000 and $810,000 to extend Gleason Pool’s life 10-15 years. “We would be giving up a lucrative opportunity that would benefit the entire county, to be 10-15 years at a cost that is disproportionate to the value the pool provides. If that’s the only other option the cities support, then we are at an impasse.”
Fischer and Mt. Vernon Mayor Kenny Delano also expressed concerns with the taxing district. Delano said in April that he wished there was a way to provide a pool that wouldn’t be a long-term burden on taxpayers.
“From what I heard, their primary concern was with the permanent tax rate to operate the pool,” said Green. “I don’t know of another way to fund it, so if they have another alternative for how we can fund the operations of the pool, I would like to hear that.”
He added that no pool pays for itself without a subsidy from the general population or a philanthropic organization because they do not see enough usage to cover the cost.
Although Grant County could still place the construction bond on the November ballot, the county could not include cities that do not pass resolutions supporting it within the proposed taxing district, so there would be no way to raise the estimated $90,000 per year it would cost to operate and maintain the pool, Green said.
“The question becomes, ‘Does this community want a pool?’ and if they do and it’s not our proposal, who’s going to lead the next round of development?” Green said. “It will not be John Day. We’ve invested two years and $70,000 in this proposal, and we’re not going back to rewrite it. If somebody else wants to take the lead, we will gladly go to their meetings and support their efforts.”