Lake Oswego City Council favors studying options for a new pool
City Councilors informally directed staff Tuesday night to work with the Lake Oswego School District on a cooperative study that could help determine whether the City and the district should join forces to create a community pool.
"Based on public input (LOSD has received), there is pent-up demand for such a community asset," School Board member Bob Barman told the council during a preliminary study session.
The idea of a community pool has been a long-simmering topic in Lake Oswego, but it has received increased attention this year due to the passage of a $187 million school bond measure in May. That bond included $7 million to repair or replace the district's ailing and overcrowded swimming pool.
The council received a large amount of public feedback from enthusiastic pool supporters at its annual Open House late last month, all calling for the City to chip in funding for a larger replacement pool. At Tuesday's meeting, the School Board weighed in as well, asking the City to join the district in a feasability study.
"We are concerned that $7 million may not be enough to build a new pool that meets the needs of the district and the City," Barman told the council, reading a statement on behalf of the entire board.
City Manager Scott Lazenby said part of the council's discussion would need to focus on the degree of the City's involvement. If the City opted to join the project, he said, it could simply chip in extra financing and leave the operation of the facility to the district, or it could become involved in operations after the pool is built.
The latter scenario would raise a separate question about whether to locate the pool on City property, he said, possibly as part of an aquatics center or larger athletics center.
"I think at this point it's more of a policy discussion as to your interest and what direction you'd want to go," he said.
Councilors John LaMotte and Jeff Gudman asked Barman whether the $7 million allocated in the bond would be enough to cover the cost of a replacement poll similar in size to the current facility. Barman said that was a possibility, but he noted that at least 85 percent of the current pool's usage comes from community members.
"The reality after further analysis of that is that it would be an inadequately sized pool," he said. "The idea of building a pool that's inadequate, and knowing (that) up front, is not something we as elected officials want to do."
Mayor Kent Studebaker asked Parks Director Ivan Anderholm about ongoing costs the City would face if it chose to become involved in pool management. Anderholm replied that the City does have staff with pool management experience, but he added that "pools don't make money" and a municipal pool would likely operate at an annual deficit of around $300,000.
Councilor Jackie Manz said she thought the City should leave the operations to LOSD, even if the council chooses to help fund the construction cost.
"The district has 47 years of experience operating a pool," she said. "They obviously have expertise. I would envision leaving management of the pool with the school district, and we would take a secondary role."
Councilor Joe Buck said he thought the operations issue would depend on where the pool ends up being located. If the pool is on district property, he said, it would make sense for the district to run it. But he added that he wanted to look at the idea of putting the pool on City property as part of a recreational center, possibly at the municipal golf course.
Councilor Skip O'Neill suggested that Lake Oswego ask the City of West Linn if it would be interested in joining the project as well, especially given that the golf course is located at the southern end of Lake Oswego, relatively close to West Linn.
Gudman and Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff both raised concerns about the impact that the upfront development cost could have on the city's taxpayers, and said they wanted clearer data about the project's scope and costs before making a decision.
"We've got to start talking numbers and less about who swims," Kohlhoff said.
Gudman asked if the pool question could be included in an upcoming community attitude survey scheduled to be conducted next year. Lazenby replied that it could be included, although LaMotte and Buck both expressed skepticism about putting out a survey without a clear project in mind first.
"I think we're overcomplicating it," LaMotte said. "I don't want to get a survey, as a citizen, that says 'pool or no pool' without the information."
Instead, LaMotte said, the City should join the district's feasibility study to answer questions about pricing, funding, size and location for a pool.
The council appeared to informally agree to pursue a discussion with the district, although no vote was taken Tuesday night and Studebaker reiterated that he wanted the issue added to the attitude survey as well, so more residents can weigh in.
"I'd like to hear from them as well," he said. "So far we've got 30 people in here and that's all."