by nathan oster
Just days before voters went to the polls in the primary election, both the Greybull Town Council and the Big Horn County School District No. 3 board of trustees ensured that the construction, operation and maintenance of a new swimming pool would be among the issues on the ballot in the next election.
With eyes fixed on Nov. 6, both governing bodies approved resolutions to put the swimming pool issue in front of voters, who will be asked to weigh in on a countywide, sixth-cent tax that would generate more than $24 million for the county’s nine municipalities and a school district bond issue that would raise $5.2 million.
At its meeting Aug. 13, the town council voted in favor of “a resolution approving the proposition for imposition of a one-percent specific purpose sales and use excise tax in Big Horn County” and for that proposition to be placed on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
The resolution must be approved by at least six of the nine county municipalities for it to appear on the ballot.
Bob Graham, who has been the council’s most vocal support of the swimming pool, emphasized early in the discussion that “how we feel, personally, about the proposed taxes is irrelevant” and that the council was just considering whether to give the community the opportunity to vote on the projects.
The county’s mayors will be meeting at 6 p.m. tonight (Thursday, Aug. 23) at Greybull Town Hall to finalize the sixth-cent issue.
Discussion at the Aug. 13 meeting centered on whether the swimming pool is, in fact, the greatest need facing the town. Rod Collingwood, who is running for town council this year and was seated in the audience, asked whether the town might be better served putting money toward the recertification of its dike.
Councilor Kay Fleek said she hasn’t received positive feedback from her constituents about the sixth-cent proposal, a point echoed by Councilor Bob McGuire.
Graham explained that if the bond for the school issue is defeated, up to $400,000 from the sixth-cent tax could be used to refurbish the existing pool. The remaining $1 million or so that would be needed to complete the refurbishing could then be sought from the Wyoming Business Council, he said.
But if the sixth-cent tax issue is defeated, it’s a dead issue, regardless of whether the $5.2 million bond issue is approved because there would be no money available to operate and maintain the new pool.
Pool concept plan
Before agreeing to place the bond issue on the ballot, the school board on Aug. 14 received a presentation on the pool concept plan, courtesy of Jim Bauer, representing the school district’s architectural firm, Bauer Group Architects.
Bauer said he designed a pool with a 40-year lifespan that was “as community friendly as we could made it,” adding that decisions in the design process were made to minimize the operation and maintenance costs over the lifespan of the pool.
The pool committee evaluated a number of sites before eventually settling on the one located on school property, between the Greybull Elementary School playground and the tennis courts where there is currently grass.
Bauer said the site stood out because of its close proximity to not only the school and the tennis courts but also the city park and a small baseball/soccer field directly behind the elementary school.
Trees that are currently growing on the site would be preserved under the concept plan presented last week by Bauer. However, there would need to be some site modifications, including realignment of some sidewalks and the development of an additional parking lot between the facility and the tennis courts.
Bauer said the front door of the facility would face north and be accessible from the tennis court side. The pool itself would be on the south half of the facility, with the thought being that it would get the most available light in that position.
The concept plan included a six-lane pool, just like the existing pool, as well as a “zero entry area” where seniors and small children would be able to enter the pool. The current pool has no zero-entry area.
Bauer said the concept plan also includes provisions for a future slide, wading area and patio on the south end of the facility. To the north of the pool, in the “business end,” there would be change rooms, showers, toilets, and check-in, office and laundry areas.
Bauer said the proposed pool would seat 40-45 spectators and would have around its outside perimeter storage areas for large items as well as for some of the other items needed around the pool.
The concept plan that Bauer presented last week was for a facility of 14,320 square feet. The existing pool is 10,440. The proposed pool would have an occupant load of 400, precast and masonry for the walls, a sloped metal roof and an interior ceiling made of aluminum panels to minimize corrosion.
The pool would be constructed with energy efficiency in mind, Bauer said, noting that there would be windows around its perimeter as well as translucent panels to the east, south and west to maximize natural light around the year. Those translucent panels are available with a factor of R-22, as opposed to the older ones which are R-7 and R-8, he said.
The tax issues facing voters in November will be a sixth-cent, specific purpose sales and use excise tax that would generate $2.6 million, with $2 million of going to establish a $2 million fund for pool O&M for the next 20 years, and a $5.2 million school district bond issue for the construction of the pool.
At last week’s meeting, Bauer broke down the budget for the proposed facility.
As it stood Tuesday night, he was estimating $3.99 million for the construction of the pool, $1,500 for site work relating to sidewalk modifications, $335,000 for site work relating to the pool construction, $179,000 for pool fixtures and equipment. With all those things factored in, the total climbs to $4.5 million.
But with fees and the required contingencies factored in, the total project budget climbs to slightly more than $5.5 million, Bauer said. The contingency requirement is standard. With respect to the fees, Bauer said money would be needed for testing, design, building permits and plan reviews.
Bauer said the pool committee wanted to keep the budget around $5.2 million, but agreed to the add extra width to the deck area so that there would be enough room for contestants to move around and to go with high-efficiency systems that are more expensive but would be less expensive in the long run.
With the bond issue set at $5.2 million, and 3 percent of that required to go to O&M, and the school district set to receive at least $400,000 from the sixth-cent tax, there would be around $5.6 million to complete the project, Bauer said.
In response to questions from board members about whether money could be trimmed from the project, Bauer emphasized that anything was possible — and that what he was presenting was only conceptual.