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New swimming pool project on track

A fund raising effort to pay for a feasibility study begins as the pool committee and Parks and Rec shoot for a June, 2003 grand opening

   Plans for a new public swimming pool facility are reaching the point in the process that supporters can project a grand opening for the summer of 2003.
   The committee calling themselves "Let's Build It!" is the driving force behind the new community pool facility project. The committee recently announced the project timeline, starting with a formal feasibility study. If that can be completed by April of next year, construction could begin as early as May 2002 with a grand opening date set in June of 2003.
   Of course, all of these plans pivot on the approval of the Crook County Parks and Recreation's board of directors which is yet to happen. With that approval in hand, the committee will take the proposal to voters in November in the form of two bond levies.
   "We projected earlier a total cost of $5 to $5.5 million which translates roughly to 78 cents per thousand on the repayment on property taxes," Crook County Parks and Recreation director Gary Ward said. "That's not too bad with a 20 year payback."
    He added that some projections were conducted on existing bonds in Crook County. They found that current outstanding bonding is at $2.63 on property taxes per one thousand dollars. The pool facility and operational costs would add a total combined cost of about $1.10 to that figure.
   If all goes as planned, voters will find two measures on November's ballot which will need to be approved by voters in order to make the new pool facility happen. One is for the construction project and the other is an operational levy called a local option tax which is renewable every five years with a vote from the public. Ward emphasized that both measures will have to receive the popular vote in order for construction to begin.
   "We need to have two measures on the ballot in November for this particular project," Ward explained. "The district can supply whatever money is going into the current pool and swing that over to the new facility, but that's not very much.
   If the construction bond measure passes, so must the operational levy pass. One without the other is not going to cut it. It)s a fact of life that the community has to subsidize the project because pools are not self sufficient by themselves."
   The committee is a well informed group of local citizens including employees of Park and Rec who have diligently researched pool facilities all across the state. From their research they have been able to compile a composite of a facility that they believe would work nicely in this community.
   The group met recently at the Juniper Art Guild building to present to the entire committee, as well as supporters, their findings. Along one wall stood large pictorial displays of pools from around the state. At the front of the room stood the proposed composite - a collection of photos taken from all of the offerings. "If we can build the facility we envision," Ward explained. "It will be a place Park and Rec can do practically all of it's programs involving aquatics. And, if we are able to get a gymnasium we can offer basketball and other indoor activities that we are not able to do now because of lack of space."
   The group has already received several proposals for conducting the feasibility study with cost expected to be about $35,000. The committee is in the process of launching a fund-raising drive to raise $25,000. Kim Kambak, a member of the committee, explained that $10,000 has been received from an anonymous donor.
   Kambak said a number of potential sites for a facility have been identified and the study will show the costs involved with each one. "Ideally, the pool would be located near the bike path or somewhere people could walk to it," she said.
   The feasibility study will also determine what the local resources are and what the community is prepared to accommodate, as well as what segment of the population would take advantage of the facility. Ward indicated that a facility of the type they envision might even draw people from the surrounding communities which will help sustain it over time.
   Fund raising efforts will begin within the next week or so and the committee hopes to have the $25,000 raised by June 1. Completion of a feasibility study is expected to take 45 to 90 days. In order to get any bond measures on the November ballot, decisions would have to be made no later than early September.
   Donations for the study can be made through the Parks and Rec Foundation. The money is tax deductible, Kambak said, and if more than is needed is raised, the excess would be used for one of the other Foundation's projects. Anyone wishing more information or would like to make a donation can call Ward at the Parks and Rec office, 447-1209.