Many of you might be wondering why it’s taking so long to figure out what to do about replacing our old pool. You’ve been hearing things around town and keep reading articles in the paper about a committee trying to do something about getting a new pool built. The simple answer is that there is a tremendous amount of creative thinking going on right now as far as how to pay for an indoor pool.
Generally speaking, government municipalities own and operate community pools because they would make a terrible private business. There is absolutely no money to be made running an outdoor pool, let alone an indoor pool. Right now, Prineville has about the most basic community pool there is, and it is 65 years old. For the most part, the mechanical system is original and certainly not as efficient as modern systems.
With that said, there is not really a savings to be had when we start talking about operating a new indoor pool. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You still have to heat a lot of water. You still have to use chemicals to balance and sanitize the water. You still have showers, sinks, toilets, and locker rooms to maintain. And, with an indoor pool, you have a large building to keep warm as well.
Currently, we operate one body of water for basically three months—June, July, and August. By the time we pay for lifeguards, make repairs, purchase supplies and pay all the utilities, it costs the District $25,000 – $30,000 to keep the doors open. This is after we figure in the revenue from swim lessons and the $3 people pay at the door. It has been this way for many years now and it has worked ok. The Crook County Parks and Recreation District budget is set up to accommodate this level of subsidy for the pool and still be able to keep the grass cut in the rest of the parks.
However, when we start talking about building an indoor pool facility, it gets complicated in a hurry. Bottom line: there is no cheap option here. Indoor community pools are very expensive to build and very expensive to operate. So the big question that the citizens of Prineville need to answer is this: Should Crook County have an indoor pool? If the answer to that question is yes, the next question would be this: How much can the people of Crook County afford?
I personally think an indoor pool is an important component of a well-rounded community. If you look at Prineville from a 1000’ view, you can see that we have a nice library, great schools, fantastic museum, beautiful parks, solid fire/police/ sheriff departments, well-kept fairgrounds, and we’re building a new jail. (That will help keep the bad guys out of the parks!) We are also blessed with easy access to the great outdoors, including many lakes, rivers, streams. Prineville has some great things going for it, but what’s up with the funky old pool?
The benefits to a community of a year-round pool are numerous. Enjoying the water is splendid, so long as you know how to swim! Are the couple of summer months that Parks and Rec. teaches swim lessons enough? An indoor pool could enable the schools to add swimming lessons to their PE classes. Then there’s health and wellness. Water therapy and exercise is a wonderful way to get the joints moving easily without causing harsh impact and pain. The Prineville Swim Team is another reason to consider a new pool. These young people and coaches get up at o-dark-thirty starting mid-late May, come down to the pool, and freeze their toes off as they learn some seriously good swimming skills. They go on to enter competitions, of which they have won quite a few over the years!
I suppose there are many folks out there who have absolutely no interest whatsoever in showing up at the pool, sporting board shorts and showing off their hairy chests. I get it; a pool doesn’t serve everyone directly. But if you think about it, a pool does serve the interests of a healthy, well-balanced and desirable community as a whole.
So—back to where we started. This process may seem long, but lots of factors are being thoughtfully and thoroughly researched in order to come up with the right size of facility for Prineville, and figuring out how to fund it as well.
One thing has been determined so far. Our Parks and Rec. District just isn’t large enough to go out for a bond to build an indoor pool. It would cost too much for the small population of people who pay taxes within the District boundaries. Another viable alternative could entail building a partnership between Crook County, the City of Prineville, Crook County School District and Crook County Parks and Rec. How can all four local government agencies work together to contribute to the success of this proposal?
This is your community. You get to prioritize what is most important. It would certainly be helpful to all of us working on this to hear your thoughts and opinions in the near future. The Pool Advisory Committee will soon be hosting some community open houses and we would love for you to come and learn what has been researched so far. You will have an opportunity to give us a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a variety preliminary plans and ideas. We are all well aware that you get to be the ones who decide yes or no at the ballot box, and we are working hard to try and put a proposal together that accurately represents what the people want. Yes, this process has taken a long time, but hopefully when the final plans go out for a vote, the people of Crook County can be proud of a project that has been well thought out and is something the taxpayers can afford.
Crook County Parks and Recreation District