District pulls the plug on pool

by nathan oster

The clock has officially struck midnight for users of the Greybull swimming pool.

Supt. Barry Bryant announced on Friday that he had closed the pool, citing a fire marshal’s conclusion that the building is “not structurally safe” and a structural engineer’s opinion that it is “unfit for public occupancy.”

The pool was funded through the end of June and the school board and town council had recently agreed to each chip in $8,000, for a total of $16,000, to cover the months of July and August.

The plan was to try to keep it open through the end of the summer, but Bryant said concerns about the safety of people using the pool prompted him to take the action, which he immediately conveyed to members of the school board and the mayor Bob Graham.

In an email, fire marshal Dale Link said, “From looking at the corrosion on the main structure of the building and the piece I picked off with my finger the building is not structurally safe.  However I am not an engineer.”

Link added that “with all the condensation, many portions of the electrical system have been compromised” and that “the failure of drain pipes, as seen, has created a serious potential for a water event.

“And the lack of proper ventilation is creating an ever-increasing potential for a serious failure of the electrical system, the chlorine dispensing system or emergency systems.  Why would you want to wait any longer to take action either to correct or eliminate the hazards?”

Bryant said the fire marshal’s visit was followed on Friday morning by a visit from Jason Hicks, a structural engineer.  In his report, which was shared with the school board on Tuesday night, Hicks cited a 2010 report in which he recommended a short-term reinforcement plan to provide a “temporary solution” for building occupancy.

“Although the reinforcement recommendations were implemented, we intended this solution to provide one or two more years of use until funds could be secured to replace the metal building,” Hicks said in his report to the report dated Aug. 9, 2013.

Hicks said that in a site visit last week he “observed the steel mainframe column bases, end wall column tops and bottoms, and roof purlin conditions to have deteriorated since our previous visit.  Additionally mainframe beam/flange braces and roof panel connections appear to have worsened.”

“The observations above indicated the vertical and lateral systems of the pool building are potentially unstable and unpredictable.  Given the continued moisture collection of the roof insulation panels, coupled with continued roof purlin and fastener corrosion, sectional roof failures could happen without warning, seriously injuring occupants within. Additionally, ‘microburst’ or even moderate wind events could cause collapse of the building when combined with the increasing weight of the aforementioned roof panels.”

Hicks closed by recommending demolition — but in his final paragraph, stated that his recommendation did not include the bathhouse portion of the facility, which is still in relatively good condition.

Built in the early 1970s, the pool far exceeded its anticipated life expectancy.


School board discussion

The school board on Tuesday night not only followed Bryant’s recommendation to shutter the pool, but it also agreed, after holding a public hearing, to proceed with the demolition of the pool facility.

The School Facilities Commission has earmarked funding for the demolition of the pool, but that appropriation was put on hold in order to let voters have a say on the construction of a new swimming pool.

In the November general election, two different tax measures in support of a new pool — one calling for the imposition of a countywide, sixth-cent sales tax, the other for a bond issue that would have raised property taxes across the school district — were soundly rejected by voters.

Mayor Bob Graham was the first to speak at Tuesday night’s public hearing. Citing the structural engineer’s opinion that the bathhouse was still in good shape, he asked whether the district had considered taking the shell off the pool and running it without a roof for the summer.

Trustee Steve Hoblit said he ran that by Jerry Ewen, who has a background in building trades and was involved in getting the pool rehabbed several years ago, and was told, “It would not hold up in an outdoor condition because it wasn’t designed to be an outdoor pool.”

Bryant added that while there is nothing structurally wrong with the bathhouse, there are multiple issues with the building’s various systems.  He added that the pool wouldn’t be demolished immediately.  More than likely, given the pace of these type of matters, he estimated that “It might be about a year from now.”

Trustee Dale Nuttall asked about what items within the building might be salvageable.  Joe Forcella, the district’s maintenance supervisor, said the bleachers could be reused and there is various equipment stored in the basement, including canoes, that could be kept.

Graham said he didn’t blame the school board for condemning the pool.

“We understand your position,” he said. “If it was the city, we’d have shut it down a long time ago because of the liability issues that you face.  We understand that.”

Graham said the attorney who was the architect of the joint powers board that oversees the Big Horn Regional water system told him he would take the lead on forming a joint powers board to oversee the construction, operation and maintenance of a new pool — but at a cost of $24,000.

Graham said if multiple entities got involved — such as the Greybull and Basin school districts, the towns of Basin, Greybull and Burlington and the Greybull and Burlington recreation districts — the cost per entity would be much easier to absorb.  The challenge would be selling the pool project and its benefits to each of those entities, he said.

Now that the writing’s on the wall, Graham said he thinks “it’s starting to hit home” with people that Greybull’s losing its pool.  “Maybe we’ll have a renewed community interest moving forward toward a new pool,” he said.

Chairman Mike Meredith admitted that he has an emotional attachment to the pool — and that losing it “hurts.”   Moving forward, he said, “It’s going to have to be a case of the community deciding it wants one.  Hopefully somebody gets involved … beyond the city and the school district.”

He concluded, “Things just keep getting worse.  We had a bowling alley.  I used to be able to dial four numbers to get someone on the phone — and now it’s seven.  And now we’re going to lose the pool.  … I feel sorry for the next generation.”