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Public frets over future of aging pool

More than 100 citizens show up at school board meeting. District contracts assessment of pool maintenance needs this month.


More than 100 people packed into an Oregon Trail school board meeting Monday, Feb. 11, with concerns about the Olin Bignall Aquatic Center.

While the community pool was not an agenda topic, four citizens voiced their concerns about the pool’s future before most in the room made a mass exodus.

“We really do fear that if the pool is ever closed for an extended amount of time, it will never reopen,” said John Peel, an adult swimmer. “We as a group of your friends and neighbors strongly feel the pool is a vital source to the community and to the district and to this region as a whole.”

With an aging pool, the district has hired an architect and engineer to assess maintenance issues. The district hopes to receive results this month and will base its next step on the report, said Julia Monteith, district spokeswoman.

But after a broken heat exchanger forced Olin Bignall to close its doors for six weeks last summer, the public is anxious.

Kimberley Nelson, a longtime pool patron who cofounded the nonprofit group Friends of the Sandy Pool, said Monday’s turnout showed the community was watching and cared deeply about the pool.

Built in 1967 with bond money, the pool was the vision of Sandy residents Olin and Joyce Bignall. Since the late 1990s, the district has held the trust of the aquatic center and currently contracts with Maverick Aquatics.

Sally Hayball, a former teacher and swim parent with a longtime association with the pool, highlighted other resources the district could explore.

“The Lebanon (Oregon) pool has a great deal of similarities and has experienced some of the same hardships our community has,” Hayball said. “Resources are available — we just have to be creative and proactive.”

Through an Energy Trust of Oregon audit, the Lebanon pool was able to secure $473,000 in grant and loan money to upgrade its facility. Now the Lebanon pool saves $19,000 a year in energy bills.

Amanda Snodgrass, a Sandy High student, said the pool had created many opportunities for youths in the community.

“It’s hard for some of us to get jobs with our crazy schedules,” Snodgrass said. “The pool gives us a go-to place because there are so many different times you can work.”

Along with the kids who work, learn how to swim and compete in swimming and water polo at Olin Bignall, the four speakers described how important the pool is for adult and handicap patrons.

“Naturally we all have fears of the pool shutting down,” said Dennis Bachman, a Sandy resident.