By Brenna Wiegand
To volunteer to explore options
to keep Silverton Community Pool open,
call Silverton City Hall:
The Silverton City Council voted May 7 to suspend closing Silverton Community Pool, giving community members a year to find ways to fund the pool beyond June 30, 2013.
The deterioration of the pool cover is one of the problems in keeping it open year-round. Installed in 2004, the cover is well past its lifespan and no reserves were set aside for repair. That cost alone is a formidable challenge for a city already operating on a shoestring.
“We had a suspicion that the discussion of closing the pool or of having a seasonal pool only might stimulate some interest from the community, and I would say, judging from the turnout tonight, we were probably correct,” Silverton Public Works Director Gerald Fisher said of the crowd filling the council chambers.
The purchase of a new pool cover was removed from the proposed budget for fiscal 2012-2013.
“There simply isn’t the money in the general fund to justify it,” said Silverton City Manager Bob Willoughby. “But reserves will be tapped in order to seek community input before a final decision is made.”
To that end, city council and city employees are requesting community members serve on a task force to find solutions to fund the pool.
“We are not going to have the money in the general fund for the operation of the pool after July 1, 2013,” Willoughby said. “If we replace the entire cover (top sections, ends, sides, and doors), the cost could be as much as $100,000 if we purchase a new cover from the manufacturer of the existing cover. We are also looking at options that include only replacing the top sections, finding a local or different vendor, and repairing the existing cover if that is feasible. For next winter, we will implement the least-cost option since we currently don’t have funds to operate the pool beyond June 30, 2013.”
Willoughby said keeping the pool operational this year will be accomplished, though doing so taps out the reserves set aside from the existing bond as well as dipping into general fund reserves. Keeping it open at all beyond that will require new sources of funding.
“Depending on what happens with the economy and the city’s revenue,” he said, “at this point it looks very, very doubtful that we will have any money to operate the pool. We need to spend the next 12 months figuring out what our options are for operating that pool.”
A feasibility study will be completed in June to assess estimated current and future repairs and options, which include returning the pool to a seasonal one or building a new swim center.
The pool, built in the 1930s, was upgraded in 2001 and the removable pool cover added in 2004, but the basic pool structure remains, Willoughby said. “From what I can see at this point, this is a problem that we cannot resolve on the expense side. It has to be solved on the revenue side, because the general fund is not going to have revenues unless the city’s going to lay off three or four police officers.”
Nearby communities that are managing to keep a swimming pool do so in different ways: Stayton through an operating levy; Molalla through a parks and recreation district; and Woodburn through its general fund.
“I think everybody understands the value of that pool and how it contributes to the community, but we can’t spend money that we don’t have,” Willoughby said. “We have until next year, and now we have to start looking for other options – and that’s where everybody that has an interest in this can help us figure this out over the next 12 months.”