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Molalla School District agrees to take possession of city pool

The Molalla City Council authorized City Manager Dan Huff last week to sign a final agreement turning over the aquatic center to the Molalla River School District.

According to the agreement, the city will pay the district a $325,000 lump sum to terminate the contract between the district and city, which will allow the district to take over operations or negotiate with an outside party to operate the pool.

MRSD Superintendent Tony Mann noted Friday that since the day the pool was built, it has been school district property.

“Effectively as landlords of the property, we are taking full possession,” Mann said. “The notion that a third party would be able to operate the pool is still an option, and Friends of Molalla Pool, I think, has expressed a desire to find a way to fund operations of a community asset like this.

“I would say the school board is committed to collaborating with community leaders,” Mann said. “But I will not reccomend a budget that uses school district general fund monies to operate the pool as a community asset. I will not reccomend a budget that takes dollars out of the classroom from students to operate a community pool.”

Mann said the school board discussed its desire as a body to engage with city council to politically support any petition that would move forward from Friends of Molalla Pool (FOMP).

“I think the community should be proud of its elected officials, both city and school board members alike, who reached some kind of solution that both sides find agreeable,” he said.

Councilor Russel Riggs noted Friday that the new city-district agreement will release the city from all ties to the pool. “The city has agreed to help the school district get a levy for an aquatic district within the boundaries of the Molalla River School District,” Riggs said. “In other words, MRSD people would vote on it.”

Riggs was on the city council aquatic center subcommittee that worked with the school district and FOMP board members to come to an agreement. He said the work being done by FOMP, the district and board offers a positive step towards the pool reopening.

MRSD School Board Chair Neal Lucht agreed.

“The school district has already voted to work with FOMP and the city to be co-petitioners on a ballot to form a special district,” Lucht said Sunday. “I personally think that this is good for Molalla. The city and the school board have been working together for more than a year now on an agreement to sustain this valuable community asset.”

We are also agreeing to co-petion for a special district to provide for the operation of the pool.”

Friends of Molalla Pool is a group of citizens working to support the Molalla Aquatic Center. The 87-member group gave this joint statement: "Once the final agreement regarding the Molalla Aquatic Center between the Molalla River School District and the Molalla City Council is approved, we will be pleased to be one step closer in pursuing our goal of a reopened pool.for the Molalla community.”

On the FOMP facebook page, the group wrote: “A joint committee made up of board members of MRSD, Molalla city councilors, and board members of FOMP met on a regular basis. “Broadly, the committee is working toward the long-term goal of establishing a pool district, which would provide stable funding. The aim is to have something for the November 2016 ballot.”

Riggs noted that the downside is that a special levy ballot measure would have to pass. “So if it doesn’t pass, we don’t know where we’ll go from there.” He said also, that the money, should the measure pass, would not be available until the following year.

“Three board members from FOMP came to the discussion, and whether they can get donations to get the pool open, with people volunteering their time, maybe that could happen now,” Riggs said. “But I don’t know what yet will happen with a third party.”