The city of White Salmon's swimming pool has rarely looked better.
With substantial donations from citizens, local organizations, and the county's Economic Development Authority fueling major repairs and improvements, the city pool is getting more tender loving care than it has for several years.
"This is the year we started to get something done with the pool. It got some attention it definitely needed," explained Tom Smith, field manager of the White Salmon Public Works Department.
At the Aug. 18 meeting of the citizen-created White Salmon Swimming Pool Committee, members discussed the many upgrades that have taken place or will take place this year.
One of the biggest projects will be to install a salination system to treat the water in the pool, and solar panels to heat the water. That work is expected to be completed this fall.
The committee also accepted two more large donations from the public; the money will help fund the various improvement projects.
First, the White Salmon Lions Club handed over a check for $10,000.
"This amount is a designated fund to be used for part of the cost of the planned chlorine/salination conversion project," explained Rudy Dierickx, president of the Lions Club.
The committee also accepted a generous check from White Salmon resident Dorothy Henkle, who donated $2,000 to support the pool.
Suzie Willey, chair of the White Salmon Swimming Pool Committee, pointed out that the new salination system and the solar panels will offer major benefits.
"They will drop our gas bill and chemical bill, and give us the obvious safety benefits of not having to work with chlorine," she said.
Public Works Department officials said it costs the city about $5,000 for 20 days worth of chlorine, and a month of natural gas to heat the pool costs about $1,500.
The solar panels are expected to remove about 80 percent of the need for natural gas.
"Those two items will drop the operating costs of the pool immediately," Smith explained. "Plus, the upgrades can be moved to another pool someday if necessary."
That factor could be important if the White Salmon Pool Committee's long-range dreams take flight.
"All these recent improvements are part of Phase 1," explained Bob Landgren, a City Council member and member of the pool committee. "Phase 2 would be building a new covered facility."
Plans for a new pool are in the conceptual stage, but there are no specific plans for the city to build a new pool in the immediate future.
Pool committee member Jack Barrett, a retired Navy admiral, said he had set a personal goal for when the new pool would be in operation.
Barrett linked the pool to events in his own life. He joked that he had served 35 years in the Navy, and his goal was to live for at least 35 years after his retirement date so he could draw his full retirement.
"I meet that goal on Aug. 22, 2012," Barrett explained. "My goal is that we will have a covered pool by then, so I can die in peace."
Earlier this year, a serious water leak was fixed, and new concrete was poured on the pool deck. Also, a new roof for the pool office building and shower area has been installed, and maintenance crews installed a new metal staircase to allow employees to safely get to the area where the chlorine work is done.
Landgren added that with all the troubles the city has gone through lately -- in particular the water shortage and the city's overall budget problems -- the effort to take care of the swimming pool has provided some good news.
"The pool is one of the highlights for 2008 for the city of White Salmon," Landgren said. "The city can really smile about how the pool came together."
Heidi Shultz, the city's pool manager, said this year has been quite different from previous years, noting that the committee's efforts were a big reason why.
"The pool committee's help has been wonderful," Shultz said. "We're not used to having what we need being done."
"There have been way more expenditures into the pool this year than has happened in years, and that's just excellent," added Mayor David Poucher.
Shultz added that the pool, which closed for the year on Aug. 26, has been even more popular than usual this year.
"Attendance in the aerobics classes is up, the family swim was also much better attended, and the overall attendance has been a lot higher," she said. "The community has had a lot of positive feedback. They love the facility."
Not everything has proceeded as planned, however: A ramp to accommodate wheelchairs has not yet been installed, and the pool facility may need even more alterations to bring it into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
"I'd love to stand here and say everything was perfect, but that's one thing not yet there," Landgren said.
"We still need the ADA ramp, and need rest-rooms and a lift to get people out of the pool," Smith explained.
Completing all those items would be very costly, Wiley noted.
"To bring that facility to comply with all the ADA standards would be a nightmare -- and I don't even know if it could be done," Willey said.