by nathan oster
A committee trying to get an outdoor pool built in Greybull tried to bring members of the Big Horn County School District No. 3 board of education into their camp last week as they began a push to get a bond issue to build a new pool on the ballot for voters to decide.
Whether they were successful in their lobbying remains to be seen, but the school board did agree that it would be receptive to more information about how the collaboration between the town and school district would be structured to achieve the goal.
Marvin Hunt, Rodney Ross and Carla Scharen represented the pool committee during the discussion, which occurred during the Community Remarks portion of the Oct. 13 meeting at the new central office.
Hunt, also a town councilman, had presented information the previous night to the council. He faced a stiffer challenge at the school board meeting, as the trustees have in recent years been lukewarm about pools, for which they are not eligible to receive funding from the state to build.
Hunt presented a plan to do just that, but not before sharing personal stories about his own experiences growing up. He described learning to swim and playing “Shark” with his friends at the outdoor pool which was once located near what is now the senior center, as well as the role the indoor pool played in his rehabilitation from a back injury sustained in an accident at the age of 21.
“Does the school need a pool? Does the city need a pool? Perhaps not,” said Hunt. “But this community needs a pool. That is what we’ve got.”
Hunt said a seasonal pool would provide various benefits, including affordable, sustainable recreation, a place to get low impact aerobic exercise and a place where children in the community, especially those who are at risk, can socialize.
“Most importantly, though, it would provide lifelong, life-saving skills through swimming lessons,” he said.
Hunt said the pool the committee envisions would be 45 feet by 75 feet, “similar in size to our most recent pool,” and would feature six lanes, a diving board, bathhouse and mechanical room. It would be built on the former Core Chevrolet lot. Now vacant, it sits next to the Herb Asp Community Center.
Hunt said the pool committee has been working with two different companies and received two different proposals to this point. One puts the cost of constructing an outdoor, seasonal pool at $1.2 million, the other (from Burbach Aquatics) at closer to $1.8 million.
“We need your help again,” Hunt told the school board.
The committee is asking for the school board to use its bonding capacity — based upon district valuation, it’s upwards of $11 million, Hunt said — to build the pool. By doing it that way, local property owners within the school district would pay for the construction of the pool.
The last time the school district ran a bond issue, it was to build the new high school in 1995. Voters approved it, the building was constructed, and in 2014, the debt was paid in full by school district.
Hunt said $1.2 to $1.8 million would need to be bonded for the outdoor pool — “and for a property like my house in town, one mill would be around $10.30 per year.” Hunt said that one mill would bring in about $114,000 annually from all district taxpayers. Given that, a 10-year bond would come close to raising the $1.2 million on the low end of the pool’s anticipated cost.
Best case scenario, Hunt said the pool could be open in 2017.
“But we’d need a commitment pretty soon,” he said, while inviting a member of the school board to join the pool committee.
The operation and maintenance of the pool was a key issue the last time voters were asked to weigh in on the subject — and it was the first question that the committee received from the school board. Jamie Flitner, the board chairman, asked if the town would be willing to pay for it.
Hunt said the council has expressed support for doing so, acting on the assumption that it will be no more than $50,000 annually. The arrangement that the pool committee envisions is for the town to lease the pool from the school district until the bond is paid off. After that, it would purchase the pool for $1. Who would run the pool has yet to be determined, with recreation district being mentioned as one possibility since it ran the old pool in its final years.
Hunt said the Burbach pool, the one with a price tag of $1.8 million to build, is considered a “50-year-pool,” while the $1.2 million pool is classified only as a “25-year pool.”
Trustee Dale Nuttall raised the questions about how the ownership of the pool would work. The School Facilities Commission wouldn’t fund the pool in any way, he said, meaning it would totally be on the school district to make it happen.
Supt. Barry Bryant said that in order for the school to bond for it, it would either have to own the land where the pool is to be built or enter into a lease that would run for the anticipated life span of the building. As for the question of whether the school district could sell it, Bryant said the decision would rest with the SFC.
What it comes down to, he said, is that “If the school owns it, we are obligated to maintain it.” He added, “Even if you have a joint powers board or a memorandum of understanding, when people change at the city, those agreements could be dissolved, without any recourse for the school district.
Concerns were also raised about who would be responsible for the bond issue to build the pool. The last time, it cost around $9,400, according to Bryant, who added that it was the least expensive option. “If you want to get it passed, you would need to spend $35,000 to $40,000,” he said. Bryant said he’d also be concerned about the school district being on the hook for the bond issue in the event that it does not pass.
Hunt was asked whether the town council would be willing to pay those bond issue costs. He said he’d run the idea past the full council the next time it meets. Said Trustee Dale Nuttall, “If the city is going to pay, it can do any kind of advertising that it wants.”