Pool board members take first steps in process

by: Photo By Holly M. Gill - Pool board member David Evans stands on Bean Foundation property just south of Jefferson County Middle School -- the future site of the Madras Aquatic Center. The board hopes to sell bonds and be ready for construction by next fall.

   In a very close vote, with just over 2 percent separating the yays and nays, Jefferson County residents gave thumbs up to both a construction bond and operating levy for a swim center in the Nov. 2 election, so now what?
   The five newly elected board members are eager to get their feet wet as they jump into the process of figuring out what needs to be done and when.
   Dr. David Evans, the only board member who was actively involved on the pool committee which was instrumental in building support for the Madras Aquatic Center, outlined some of the first steps the board must take. The steps include: finding a meeting space; setting rules of operation for the public board; selecting an attorney; contracting with a bond-selling agency; selling the bond; and beginning to talk to architects and designers.
   "Public input is going to be critical to the process," Evans said. "We'll try to do some town hall type events."
   Board members have begun exchanging contact information, but have not had the opportunity to meet. "We're not even sworn in yet," said Ted Viramonte. The board will be sworn in by County Clerk Kathy Marston sometime after the election is certified Nov. 22.
   (Unofficial precinct by precinct totals for the pool votes and two key county races are charted on page 3.)
   "What I'd like to see, once we're sworn in, is to take a day-long retreat with an outside facilitator and determine how to proceed from that point," Viramonte added.
   Although there will be immediate expenses, such as advertising and the cost of retaining an attorney, since the pool district is new, it has no money on hand. "Taxes won't even start to be levied until January," said Viramonte. "They also indicated we wouldn't be able to access those funds until November of '05."
   Because those funds won't be available for about a year, the district -- which has the same boundaries as the 509-J School District -- will need other money to get the pool project under way. "We will be looking at ways to establish startup money," Evans noted. "We will be looking at grant money to offset costs and contribute to operational costs, too."
   Several local taxing districts -- School District 509-J, city of Madras, and Jefferson County -- have pledged financial assistance for the pool project. The school district has pledged $50,000 per year for the first three years, beginning in July of 2005; the city has already begun and will continue setting aside $25,000 per year from urban renewal funds for the next few years; and the county will help fund operations with $25,000 for the first year, which may be extended for an additional two years.
   It is not yet clear if any of the pledged money will be available to the board to help defray initial costs.
   "We'll be in contact with our partners on a regular basis -- the Bean Foundation, 509-J School District, city of Madras, Jefferson County, and hopefully, the Boys and Girls Club," said Evans. "There are a lot of stakeholders in this community that deserve to be, and will be, consulted."
   The Bean Foundation is donating the three- to four-acre parcel on which the Madras Aquatic Center will be built. The parcel is located just south of Jefferson County Middle School.
   The pool will likely be constructed on a flat area southwest of the football field. "The engineer or architect will help decide the precise location," said Evans, but the final decision "rests with the five elected board members."
   Water Technology Incorporated of Beaver Dam, Wis., provided the preliminary aquatic center plans the original pool committee used in their presentations.
   "They recommend a traditional masonry building, because it has high durability, and high aesthetics, but it's more expensive initially," Evans said, adding, "You'll save money in maintenance costs."
   The board members -- Evans, Viramonte, Angela Harris, Janet Morgan, and Margaret Kincaid -- will also consider exactly what features the aquatic center will have. "The slate is pretty open; we can consider a lot," said Evans.
   Among the features of the 33,000-square-foot facility will be a lap pool for exercise, a recreation pool for play and relaxation, and a whirlpool.
   The lap pool will be a minimum of six lanes, for high school-sanctioned swim meets, but could be up to eight lanes, Evans said.
   Board members will decide on the pool's depth, he said. According to Evans, "There are various groups that have various requirements for depth."
   As an example, Evans said, "The American Red Cross lifesaving requires some deep water if you're going to have lifesaving classes at the facility. These are the things that companies like Water Technology will have at their fingertips: what is best for water polo, swimming, water aerobics, etc."
   The center will also house a meeting room, locker rooms, manager's office, snack counter, storage rooms, and pool maintenance rooms.
   At the start of the process, over a year ago, pool backers were considering a $5.4 million aquatic center, which would have included a simple pool, hot tub, and recreation rooms. It was expected to cost property owners over $1.20 per $1,000 of assessed value for construction and operations -- a third more than current estimates.
   "But as we started to talk to professionals and people in other communities who have been down this road before, they all advised that a recreation pool is the way to go to maximize your operating sustainability," Evans pointed out.
   In the analysis conducted last spring by Seattle-Northwest Securities Corporation, bond tax levy rates for construction of an $8.1 million aquatic center were estimated at 66 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $66 per year for 20 years.
   Added to that will be the operations levy, which cannot exceed 25 cents per $1,000, or $25 in property taxes for the owner of a $100,000 home. The combined rate for the bond and the operations will be about 91 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or $91 per year for the owner of a $100,000 home -- considerably less that preliminary estimates from a year ago.
   The operating levy will help reduce costs for pool users -- especially those who live within the pool district.
   Evans explained, "The pool board will look at not only a variety of fee ranges, but a variety of fee structures -- the individual day pass, monthly pass, year pass, family passes, senior rates -- all those kinds of things."
   He continued, "We're going to try to make it as affordable as possible. The goal here is not to make a profit, but to have a sustainable income stream to operate the pool."
   "One of our goals to begin with is to get things going by the fall of 2005, and finished by the fall of 2006," said Angela Harris. "I'm excited about getting started."
   Evans is also enthusiastic about working with the board to get the project under way. "We have a grant writer on this board, a stockbroker, a personnel manager, a person with aquatic program experience, and somebody with institutional memory from the planning stages of the project, so I think we have a pretty good group of talent for the board."
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