Town, school officials to decide whether pool lands on ballot

by nathan oster

Before a proposal to build an outdoor pool is put to voters, officials from the Town of Greybull and Big Horn County School District No. 3 will need to sign off on a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that stipulates how such a pool would be operated and maintained for its anticipated lifespan.

In the past 10 days, the governing bodies of both have taken steps in that direction.

The school board, meeting Dec. 8, agreed to the use of some of its bonding capacity for a community pool — contingent upon an MOA that covers not only how the arrangement would work between the town and the school if the pool is built but also payment of the upfront costs associated with a bond issue, including legal fees, the cost of the election itself and campaign and advertising.

The town council took it a step further on Monday night, earmarking money from a renamed Greybull Development fund for the cost of preparing the MOA. The town will look to line up Barbara Bonds, an attorney with experience in this area, to handle the task.

Councilman Marvin Hunt has been heading a pool committee also made up of, among others, Carla Scharen, owner of CC’s Pizza, and Rodney Ross, who formerly sat on the council and now serves as the town’s building inspector.

All three of them approached the school board on Dec. 8, asking for a show of good faith from the board that it would allow the town to use the school’s bonding capacity to build a pool resembling the indoor one that was shuttered several years ago due to concerns about its condition.

The town has received two estimates on the pool — one from Burbach, the other from Interstate Engineers. The latter is a company the town hired to study the pool issue — and its $1.1 million proposal for a 45 foot by 75 foot outdoor pool is the one the town is using as the present time. The proposal from Burbach was considerably more expensive.

The committee is proposing to build the pool on the vacant lot adjacent to the Herb Asp Community Center (HACC) and it approached the school board because the town doesn’t have enough bonding capacity to build the pool. Supt. Barry Bryant said the school district, with no bonds outstanding, has a bonding capacity of up to $11.4 million.

The town owns the lot next to the HACC, and the committee is proposing that the school district bond for the cost of constructing the pool. Once it’s built, the town would lease the pool from the school district. The town would be on the hook for all operation and maintenance costs for the lifespan of the pool. When the bond is retired and the pool is paid off, ownership of the pool would transfer to the town.

The discussion at the Dec. 8 meeting centered on the finer points of the agreement, including whether the School Facilities Commission’s approval of the deal would be necessary — the SFC is on record saying it won’t participate in any aspect of the pool project, classifying it an “enhancement.”

Supt. Barry Bryant said he doesn’t envision that being a problem.

“We’d have to submit it to them for approval, but if the city owns the property, what they’re going to tell us is, ‘Do what you want because we aren’t going to give you money to operate and maintain it.’”

Trustee Selena Brown also questioned whether the community still wants a pool.

In November, she asked for a public survey of some kind to gauge public interest.

Town officials didn’t immediately respond to that request, and at the Dec. 8 meeting, Hunt explained that the pool had been identified as a top priority in the last community assessment, which was done a couple years ago. Hunt said he still believes the public wants a pool.

But Brown said she isn’t so sure, suggesting that the community has changed a lot in the past two years and that this isn’t a favorable economic climate in which to be calling for special election to pass a bond issue.

Brown ultimately cast the lone dissenting vote when the board voted to “support the district’s bond use for a community pool, contingent upon a Memorandum of Agreement between the Town of Greybull and Big Horn County School District No. 3.”

Board members also discussed the need to better define who would pay for what in terms of the run-up to the special election — from legal fees to the cost of the election to the campaign and advertising costs. School board officials expressed opposition to paying for any of it, suggesting they be covered by the town. Bryant said the last time the pool was put to voters, the school district paid for the election costs, which came to around $10,000.

Jamie Flitner, who chairs the school board, was present for Monday’s council meeting.

Flitner said if the question was simply a matter of allowing the town to use the school’s bonding capacity, it would be “easy and a done deal.” But it’s not. “It’s complicated,” she said. “And our entity, like yours, doesn’t have a lot of resources.”

Flitner said she and the other members of the board are willing to sit down to discuss the MOA with the town, but like Brown, she said the board is hoping to see more community support for the project before going too far down the road on the bond issue.

“Bottom line, we are a long way from a bond issue,” she said. “We have a lot to hash out.”

The pool committee has suggested putting the pool to a vote in a May special election.

To make that happen, paperwork would need to be filed at the courthouse by March 1.

A spreadsheet provided at Monday’s meeting provided an overview of what an election might cost. The bottom line figure would fall within a range of $18,000 and 25,000.

For one thing, the more that’s on the ballot, the cheaper it would be. A special election for a pool bond issue would run around $7,500. If it were done in conjunction with the August primary, it would be $2,500. If run with the general election in November, it would be closer to $1,500.

Also included in that bottom-line estimate are legal fees for both the town and the school district — estimated at around $3,000 — plus bonding costs (through the contract with Barbara Bonds estimated to be no more than $5,250), print and radio advertising and a 10 percent contingency.

Council members expressed support for contacting Bonds and developing the framework of an MOA between the town and the school district. To pay for it, the council voted at the end of the night — with Scott Mattis and Marquerite Van Dyke dissenting — to tap a Greybull Development fund made up of dollars set aside at one time for the Big Horn Basin Ethanol project.

Before doing so, the council also considered dipping into the funding streams it set up for the Greybull Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greybull Economic Development Committee. Both are due to receive $20,000 from the town this fiscal year.