Crook County residents will vote on $12M swim center

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: October 25. 2006 5:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE – The 53-year-old Crook County pool is showing its age. It is leaking water, there are problems with the septic system, and swimmers often leave with cuts on their feet from the rough bottom.

This year, Crook County voters will be asked whether they want to build a new aquatic center. The new center would be open year-round and include an indoor pool, an outdoor pool and multipurpose rooms, according to Jeannie Searcy, business manager for the Crook County Parks & Recreation District. It would be located on the current site of Davidson Field, on Southeast Third Street in downtown Prineville.

Two proposed levies would cover the costs of building and operating the Crook County Swim and Activity Center, with the operating levy contingent on the construction bond’s passing.

A $12 million general obligation bond for the construction of the pool would result in a levy of 73 cents for every $1,000 of taxable assessed property value, or $146 for a house assessed at $200,000. The five-year operating levy would cost property owners 38 cents for every $1,000 of taxable assessed value; that means a homeowner with a house assessed at $200,000 would pay $76 a year.

The current pool was built in 1953 and consists of only an outdoor facility, which is open about 2 1/2 months a year, Searcy said.

“It has a lot of major, major problems, (and) I feel the parks district has done a good job keeping it open, but how much longer that’s going to happen is anybody’s guess,” Searcy said.

This is the second time the swim center proposal has appeared on the ballot in Crook County. Searcy said she thinks the measure failed the first time because voters did not have enough information about the cost of building an indoor/outdoor pool facility.

“People want an indoor pool. They want something they can use year round, and I think part of the problem is people just didn’t understand how expensive that is,” she said.

This time, a local political action committee called Volunteers in Action has been talking to voters and raising pledges toward the operating costs of the facility. Donna Jacobson, co-chairwoman of Volunteers in Action, said she thinks Crook County residents are largely in favor of building a new pool.

“The other one is basically falling apart,” Jacobson said. “It’s hard to find something to do around Crook County. We don’t have a theater, we don’t have a skating rink. (The pool is) something the whole family and our seniors can enjoy.”

Jacobson said that even though the bond has gone up from $7 million on the first ballot proposal to $12 million this time, the pool will actually be more affordable because Crook County’s population has grown. But she added that construction costs are always increasing.

“What we were surprised to find out was that the cost was just going up and up every year,” Jacobson said. “So my concern is that if they wait, it’s never going to be less expensive.”

That has proved true in Madras, where voters approved an $8.1 million bond for construction of a swim center in November 2004. But in May, the first round of bidding on the project resulted in a single bid of over $8 million, which would have left no money for design costs, Project Manager Mike Marino said.

“What was unexpected was the escalation in construction costs over the last two years,” Marino said.

Searcy said she is sure the Crook County center will be able to stay within budget.

“We certainly wouldn’t be doing it for $12 million if we weren’t confident,” Searcy said, adding that a feasibility study determined the costs of the project.

Searcy said the study put the annual cost of operating the pool at $500,000 to $600,000, which would be paid for by the $50,000 budget for the current pool, funding from the the parks and recreation district and the operational bond.

The new center would also charge about $2.50 for swimming, which would bring in about $200,000 a year, Searcy added. Jacobson said Volunteers in Action has already raised $121,000 in pledges toward the cost of operating the pool and is working on obtaining grants and endowment funds.

Barbara Dalton, a member of the parent-teacher organization at Cecil Sly Elementary School who has two young children, said she is in favor of building a new pool, but she added that many people she has talked to think the proposed center is too expensive.

“They think the price is too high, and I differ with them, saying, ‘It’s going to offer so much more than you think,’ so price doesn’t really matter,” Dalton said. “It is a bit steep, but I think it will be very beneficial to our community.”

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