Three-week closure allows for a new paint job and patches to eroding concrete, but major problems could be ahead for the 43-year-old facility

by: GARY ALLEN - Aging daily -- A contractor cleans between tiles in preparation for re-grouting the aging gutters in the 43-year-old facility.The Chehalem Aquatic Center re-opened Monday after being closed for three weeks, during which time the pool was emptied for maintenance that had not been performed in five years.

The aquatic facility closed Dec. 13, after which it was repainted. More importantly, though, was the patch work done to the cement and re-grouting the tile on the pool’s gutter. It was refilled Friday and the water treated over the weekend to complete the project.

The extent of the damage, which consisted mostly of holes in the pool wall and damage to the gutter caused by eroding concrete and rusting rebar, could not be fully assessed until the pool was emptied because the water hides many of the flaws.

Rebar is also popping out on areas of the deck or has been exposed by disintegrating concrete, like on the back portion of the diving board platform, which is missing a significant portion of original foam.

“Right now we’re just trying to patch it up the best we can,” parks and facilities supervisor Jim McMaster said. “It’s an age issue."
"Structurally, the (building’s) walls and the ceiling are okay, it’s the deck and the pool that are the problem.”

McMaster said that the rule of thumb is that pools have a life expectancy of about 50 years, after which they need to be replaced. He added that the pool, which was built in 1970, has held up pretty well despite its current appearance.

However, it’s what McMaster can’t see — namely the metal pipes that drain the pool and the sump pumps that keep the water table below pool level — that could ultimately be its undoing, causing a failure that would result in an extended closure of months instead of weeks.

“It’s like we’re Band-Aiding,” McMaster said. “What happens with a lot of pools when they get this bad, like after 43 years, they will cut these out and put a whole new gutter in. They’ll tear up the bottom of the pool, throw all the piping out and replace it.”by: GARY ALLEN - Clean sweep -- A Chehalem Park and Recreation District employee sweeps up debris in anticipation of painting the bottom of the pool in December. The work also included painting new lane lines and repairing crumbling concrete on the deck and other areas of the pool facility.

From his research, McMaster said that to tear out the piping and replace it with a sturdier plastic system, which he says was unavailable when the pool was built in 1970, would cost about 80 percent of what it would take to build a new one from scratch.

In addition, McMaster said that the pneumatic system, which uses technology from the 1950s to control the pool’s functions, is so old that they no longer manufacture parts. That is only half of any potential major problem with the system, as well.

“They don’t have people that work on this stuff and it has to be tuned to control all of our ventilation and everything,” he said. “The water level is all pneumatic oriented. Now everything’s electronic. The building is not energy efficient because in 1970 it didn’t have to be.”

For these reasons and more, several local citizens have formed the Chehalem Pool Committee in order to work with CPRD to find a long-term solution.

“You can’t just keep piece-mealing it together,” committee member Jim Seymour said. “The current infrastructure is disintegrating. It’s not responsible to keep trying to patch it up. It needs a major renovation and because it’s even too small for today, it needs to be expanded.”

With the pool back open, CPRD is hosting a fitness and wellness open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday. For more information on the event, call 503-537-2909.

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