Pool’s final day to be Aug. 31

by nathan oster

The Greybull Town Council and the Big Horn County School District No. 3 board of trustees are planning to pull the plug on the swimming pool on Aug. 31 — assuming the facility can hold up that long.

At a special joint work session held Wednesday night at Town Hall, neither the council nor the school board took any official action.  But they did reach a consensus to continue funding the pool beyond when the current fiscal year ends on June 30, 2013.

As part of the memorandum of understanding now in place to operate the pool, both entities are contributing $30,000 annually toward operation and maintenance costs.

To keep it going for an additional two months, and thus give the community one final summer to enjoy the pool, both entities agreed to pony up an additional $8,000 apiece. Anything left over when the facility closes would be returned to the town and school coffers.

Supt. Barry Bryant and Joe Forcella, the district’s maintenance director, reiterated their concerns about the current condition of the facility — and the idea suggested by some to try to extend the pool’s life even beyond the Aug. 31 date.

“We’re three years into a two-year fix,” said Bryant. “Heaven forbid, what if someone got injured.  As if that wouldn’t be bad enough, someone could come back and say, ‘Hey, you knew this was an issue, yet you kept the pool open.’

“It would just open the school district up to liability issues.”

Forcella added that the building is in even worse shape than the public realizes, and that every time there’s a strong wind he worries about the roof. “You can go up there and pull the screws out by hand,” he said.  “At some point, we are going to have a failure.”

The board and the council found themselves in agreement not to stretch the pool beyond the Aug. 31, 2013, deadline and also to pursue the idea of forming a special joint powers board to build, operate and maintain a new pool.

Graham said he’d like to pitch the idea of participating on the joint powers board to every community in south Big Horn County, including Basin, Burlington and Manderson, all of whom have residents who utilized the Greybull pool at one time or another.

Earlier in the meeting, Graham suggested trying to let the pool “limp along” beyond Aug. 31 to allow time for the joint powers board to get its wheels on the ground, but that plan didn’t receive much support from others at the table.

Ultimately, all agreed that the formation of a joint powers board could be the best approach to getting a new pool built — or at the very least, lobbying for the construction.

Another issue is the demolition of the pool.  Bryant said the School Facility Commission has earmarked $140,000 for the pool’s demolition — but that would only be awarded so long as the pool is owned by school district.  If a joint powers board took ownership of the pool, it would be on the hook for those demolition costs, he said, arguing that that’s another reason to deal first with the existing pool before shifting gears to the joint powers board and talk of a new pool.

The consensus of the group was to move forward soliciting information about what it would take to form a joint powers board.  Ross Jorgensen, a member of the town council, suggested that a subcommittee of school and town leaders approach the lawyer who set up the Big Horn Regional Water joint powers board for ideas on how to begin.  Those around the table agreed that would be a good starting point.

Greybull Recreation District Director Chris Waite said the formula for building a new pool has been the same each time in other communities.  A joint powers board would be one step.  After that, other communities have used bond issues to build pools, and a sixth-cent tax to pay for operations and maintenance.

At Monday night’s meeting of the recreation district board, Waite said he’d talked with the lifeguards in recent weeks. “I think we’re going to be OK,” he said. “We may need to pick up one or two, but we have some potential junior lifeguards to draw from, too.”