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Citizen-led pool advisory committee receives numbers from feasibility study conducted earlier this year

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - One of the primary needs highlighted by members of the public is a recreational component for a new pool.

Plans for a potential replacement of the Prineville swimming pool are continuing to take shape.

Armed with dollar amounts and possible facility design options, the Crook County Parks and Recreation District's Pool Advisory Committee is reaching out to local government entities as well as the public to move the project forward.

BLRB Architects recently provided the committee plans for a pool facility that incorporate a variety of needs the group has identified through public outreach during the past few months. Those needs include recreational uses as well as an area for swimming competitions, health and wellness and water aerobics for senior citizens and other residents in search of exercise options.

The plans provided feature a colder water competition pool alongside another warmer pool with a wellness area, a zero-depth entry recreational swim portion and a "lazy river" feature. An enclosed water slide is also included. A building adjacent to the pool area would feature a lobby area, two multi-purpose rooms, and a men's and women's locker room.

The facility would be located on the existing pool footprint, but make use of the surrounding Parks and Recreation-owned land to the east and west of the current pool. A parking lot near the facility would provide 78 spaces.

Based on feasibility study data compiled by BLRB Architects, the cost to replace the Prineville swimming pool, which was built more than 60 years ago, ranges from $9 million for a basic outdoor pool and bath house to around $23 million for an indoor facility, depending on what features it would offer.

Wayne Looney, advisory committee chairman, recently wrote a letter to city and county officials that addressed the estimated costs of a pool facility and what would be necessary to fund them. He acknowledged that the $23 million figure is daunting, but noted that the estimate was heavily influenced by public opinion on pool needs.

"We will continue to explore other options that could prove to be less expensive," he stated. "We had to have a starting place, which was to get design and operating costs, to see where we can whittle them down."

Given the potential expense involved, the advisory committee feels it will be necessary to turn to city and county government to develop a bond measure and help fund operations of the facility once it is built.

"Due to the overall size and scope of the project and the fact that it would be a benefit to most of the citizens of Crook County, we believe that all Crook County residents should share in the cost of building and maintaining an indoor pool," Looney said on behalf of the committee. "We believe that Crook County Parks and Recreation District is too small of an organization to be the sole funding entity for an indoor pool."

The committee is therefore requesting that the Crook County Court be the entity that puts forth a bond measure to construct the pool. This would be a departure from past attempts where the Parks and Recreation District filed for bond measures to fund a new pool.

An attempt in November 2006 to pass a bond to fund a $12 million pool project was voted down by a 51 to 49 percent margin. A second attempt to pass the bond in May 2007 was soundly defeated.

The committee has also determined that the Parks and Recreation District will need financial help operating a new pool facility once it is built.

"We are asking the City of Prineville, Crook County and Crook County Parks and Recreation District to share the cost of operating a new indoor pool until such time as CCPRD can afford to take on the full burden of operations," Looney wrote.

Estimated funds to operate the facility after user revenue and contracts are included could be as much as $716,000 per year, depending on what type of pool facility is chosen. The committee therefore believes that the city and county would need to bridge financing to operate the pool until 2031. At that time, the district would get a substantial boost in tax revenue from the Apple data center, which is located in the Parks and Recreation taxing district.

"It is anticipated that once the (Enterprise Zone) tax exemption ends for Apple and they begin paying taxes to CCPRD, the district will be in a financial position to assume the operations of the pool," Looney stated.

Going forward, the advisory committee soon plans to engage the public with a scientifically valid survey to determine what type of bond measure and pool facility residents are likely to support.

"In addition to many other questions, the committee would like to ask the residents if they would be more likely to vote for a pool if they knew that the operations would be funded with existing city/county/district funds without any new tax levies imposed for operations," Looney stated.

The committee intends to conduct the survey in January and hopes the information obtained will help determine the will of the people regarding a new pool. In addition, once the survey is complete, the committee will begin hosting public meetings.

"If the results are favorable, we would request that the Crook County Court put forth a bond measure in November 2018," Looney concluded.

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