DAYTON — The community pool will be closed this summer due to the structure’s dilapidated condition, but residents and city officials are continuing efforts to ensure that a “first-class operation” of some sort will be open in summers to come, if not necessarily in the summer of 2019, according to Mayor Craig George.
The city of Dayton has requested bids from engineering firms to study the pool, which is 30-plus years old, and determine the extent of its problems as well as potential costs for fixes.
The structural analysis will be the first step in the city’s decision-making process for how to proceed, George said. Bids on the assessment are due Thursday.
Friends of the Dayton Community Pool, a local group dedicated to finding — and helping to fund — a solution on the pool problem, has submitted multiple grant applications in the interim, hoping to raise money to address pool-related issues, said Vicki Zoller, president of the nascent group.
One grant application, to the Warren Foundation for $10,000, would provide Friends of the Dayton Community Pool with $9,000 to contribute to the city’s costs to assess the pool and $1,000 for public outreach efforts, such as a survey to determine what the community wants.
The group has also submitted a pair of grant applications that could help with transporting residents this summer to other pools in the region, such as the Walla Walla pool or the Prescott pool.
Last week, Friends of the Dayton Community Pool officially became part of the Columbia County Community Network, a local nonprofit, Zoller said. Under that umbrella, all donations to the pool group would go through the Community Network, which would then dispense the funds to the pool group.
This measure, said Zoller, is intended to institute some measure of trust in the Friends accounting system.
“I thought it would give the community a sense of security — just knowing it wasn’t some random community member keeping track of a bunch of money,” she said. It’s a “great way to keep it above board and transparent.”
The city’s budget for the pool comes out of the general fund, according to George. He said it costs about $80,000 per year to run the pool, which only brings in around $20,000 in revenue, meaning the city subsidizes the pool at $60,000 per year.
For Zoller, however, the idea of considering a pool only in terms of finances is to miss the bigger picture.
“The reality is swimming pools, especially pools that are run by Parks and Rec boards (have) never been money makers, and if we look at it in that way, nobody would ever want one,” she said.
She listed the community benefits a vibrant pool can bring: swimming lessons, exercise, bringing people together.
“The payoff is not in bank but in the community. That’s what we want everyone to understand,” she said. “It’s going to cost a bunch of money for sure, but what we get back is really more substantial.”
In determining whether to close the pool this year, the mayor said City Councilmembers saw the cracks and thought, “Now where’s this going?”
He said that while superficial cracks might have required relatively minor fixes, from “a safety and liability perspective,” too much remained uncertain.
“It was not an easy decision,” George said, adding “most people understand” when city officials explain why they made the decision.
“Hopefully we’ll have a pool here as soon as we can,” he said. “I can’t guarantee when it’s going to be, but we do want a pool.”
The city plans to have a final assessment report by mid-November, at which point a clearer vision of the future should emerge, George said.
“Then we really know where to go,” he said, “and we know what we have to do, then we can look at how we are going to finance this.”
Zoller said that for the foreseeable future, the Dayton Pool group has no intention of putting a levy on the ballot. Ideas tentatively on the table range from renovating the current pool to modeling something after Walla Walla’s new Veterans Memorial Pool, to building a new indoor aquatic center that could operate year-round, she said.
But the first step is the assessment of the current pool, George said; for Zoller a critical first step is soliciting community input.