Crook County voters to see pool measure for third time

New proposal cuts cost of facility by $1.3M

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: February 26. 2007 5:00AM PST

Supporters of a new aquatic center in Prineville are hoping a modified, cheaper plan will sway voters who have rejected it at the polls twice already.

After the latest defeat in November, the Crook County Parks and Recreation District Board has decided to float another ballot measure in the May election this year. Officials said the proposed measure would lower the cost of building the pool to 62 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, meaning that a homeowner with a house valued at $200,000 would pay $124 a year.

That rate is down 11 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $22 a year for a house valued at $200,000, from last year’s proposed rate. A second levy to fund the operations of the facility would tax residents an additional 37 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value.

The reduction in price is due to the elimination of a multipurpose room that could have housed a skating rink or gymnasium, said Maureen Crawford, director of the parks and recreation district. She added that removing the multipurpose room from the plans will lower the projected cost of the facility by $1.3 million, from $12 million to $10.7 million.

The plans for the new center still include two indoor pools, an outdoor pool and locker rooms. “Will that be enough for the voters? I hope so,” Crawford said. “What we heard was that it was too much money and too big, so listening to what the voters said, we eliminated the multipurpose room.”

Last November, the district proposed two measures to build and operate a new swim center that would have taxed voters at a combined rate of $1.11 for every $1,000 of assessed value – or about $222 a year for a house worth $200,000. The construction bond failed by a narrow margin, 2,936-2,774, according to the Crook County Clerk’s Office, and the operations bond also did not pass.

A similar measure in 2002 to build a $7.5 million center failed by a vote of 3,452-1,647.

A similar measure in 2002 to build a $7.5 million center failed by a vote of 3,452 to 1,647.

Crawford said Volunteers in Action, the political action committee that campaigned for the new pool last year, brought the idea of going out for another bond to the parks and recreation district board. Members of the group also suggested eliminating the multipurpose room to save money.

“We have this momentum built and the price of steel and fuel continues to soar,” said Donna White, chairwoman of Volunteers in Action. “We had to increase the cost substantially from where it was four years ago already, so imagine four more years – it would be really expensive.”

Before the last election, Volunteers in Action raised more than $120,000 in pledges toward the operation of the center. A feasibility study done for the 2006 proposal also showed that a user fee of about $2.50 for swimming would bring in about $200,000 a year, out of an operating cost of between $500,000 and $600,000 annually.

This year, officials decided not to tie the two measures together, as they did previously when the operating levy was contingent on the construction bond passing.

White said Volunteers in Action did not recommend removing the center’s proposed outdoor pool to save money on construction costs because the pool should generate revenue.

“Outdoor pools make money; stand-alone indoor pools statewide lose money – they’re very expensive to operate,” she said. “We need the year-round pool. We need it for seniors, we need it for swim lessons, we need it for students and lap swim, and the public.”

The committee and parks and recreation officials are continuing to propose the use of Davidson Field, on Southeast Court Street in downtown Prineville, despite some community concerns about displacing a baseball field there. The parks and recreation district owns the field and has picked a location for a new baseball diamond near the Crook County Fairgrounds.

Crawford said that the county’s current pool, a 54-year-old outdoor facility that is open 2 1/2 months out of the year, should open this summer after some repairs based on inspections done by the state Department of Environmental Quality and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“We’re making corrections that need to be made to get it open,” Crawford said. “We can’t guarantee that it will stay open all year, but we’re hoping to get it open and get those kids in swimming lessons.”

The pool also has larger problems like leaks, an old septic system and a rough bottom that leaves swimmers with cuts.

One concern for pool supporters this May is that the election falls under the double majority rule, which means that more than 50 percent of the almost 8,000 registered voters in the Crook County Parks and Recreation District would have to turn out to vote, and a majority of those people would have to vote “yes,” for the measure to pass.

“Even if the ballot measure passed and 50 percent of the voters didn’t vote, then we would not be able to build it,” Crawford said. “Past history shows that we don’t usually get that (turnout in May elections) in Crook County, but we’re hoping that this sparks enough interest that the people in our community would want this bad enough that they’ll vote it in.”

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