The Mt. Adams Park and Recreation District’s board of commissioners has decided to proceed with development of an aquatic center in the west end of Klickitat County via the efforts of the district’s all-volunteer Aquatic Committee.
All five commissioners at last Thursday’s board meeting at Sky-line Hospital agreed it is the right thing to do for west-end communities. They based their decision on the findings contained in a twice-revised Aquatic Feasibility Study prepared this summer by TSE Consulting, under the direction of North Side Education and Rec-reation, a local non-profit organization, and on the Aquatic Commit-tee’s recommendation to proceed. Mt. Adams Park and Recreation District (MAPARD) Commissioners selected North Side as administrator for the project —as well as the fundraising that made the project possible — because it has no budget or staff for such an undertaking.
The Park and Rec Board – Dana Scheffler, Hugh Whitson, and Becky Williams of White Salmon, Cheryl Steindorf of Klickitat, and Tom Reynolds of Trout Lake — discussed the 66-page report publicly for the first time last Thursday. Also on hand for the meeting were several members of the Aquatic Commit-tee. At the conclusion of the discussion, Reynolds made a two-part motion: that MAPARD continue the process of developing an aquatic center project, and that the Aquatic Committee proceed with investigating land acquisition costs, construction funding, and operations and maintenance financing. The timeframe for planning for and constructing an aquatic center is three to four years.
“We’re not building a pool tonight,” Reynolds said, “we’re just deciding to proceed with the process.”
The report offered two options for an aquatic center: a $3.9 million version totaling 13,120 square feet that includes a 25-yard by 36-foot competition pool with limited spectator seating, a 36-foot by 20-foot teaching pool, an aquatic therapy pool, a splash pool for children, and limited space for changing lockers and classrooms; and a $5.3 million facility measuring 14,056 square feet that includes all of the above, plus an L-shaped augmentation on the competition pool for diving and a “lazy river” for exercise or cooling down after competition. The estimated construction costs listed here do not include land acquisition, sales tax on construction, or debt service.
“The first option features an aquatic center that meets the instructional, competitive, therapy, and recreational needs outlined in this report, including four pools. This option provides the most cost-effective alternative for consideration,” TSE wrote in the study’s executive summary. The second option, the report stated, “represents ‘ideal’ components, with amenities additional to those contained in the first option.”
The Park and Rec Board also heard a presentation from White Salmon Mayor David Poucher, who advised a project to renovate the city pool would cost approximately $500,000. He said a $500,000 investment would pay for an overhaul that would restore the pool to a condition where it will last for years to come. Partial funding for such a project could come from the state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO); the applicant would be responsible for putting up the local matching funds.
“We’d use the guts of what’s there but replace everything else,” Poucher noted. “That brings us to a point where we have a reconstructed pool that meets all state standards.”
“It would be what we have now,” Whitson offered for clarification.
The RCO’s grant program for outdoor recreation, according to Poucher, would provide 50 percent of the funding, provided the applicant could come up with the local matching funds.
The city, however, would not be the manager or operator of a rebuilt facility. In the alternative, Poucher said state law allows the city to lease or rent the pool to a third party like MAPARD.
Tom Wooding, a member of MAPARD’s Aquatic Committee, said the district could make the city pool work as a stopgap measure but “the big picture” is calling for MAPARD to move toward developing a year-round facility under either option that offers programming for a variety of potential constituent groups.
“It’s way too early to know which model is preferable,” Wooding said regarding a choice between the $3.9 million and $5.3 million alternatives. “I think what it comes down to is what kind of programming is available and the revenue you would need to generate to cover the cost of that programming. We need to talk about programming before we discuss what kind of facility we should build.”
Park and Recreation Commissioners did not select one option over the other in its decision to move forward with development of an aquatic center. Rather, they and the members of the Aquatic Committee, per Wooding’s recommendation, are focusing on the level of service the aquatic center should offer to fit the type of facility the west side of the county requires.
Reynolds told The Enterprise last Friday in an e-mail that Poucher’s presentation was helpful in that it gave the board “a fallback option to explore if the aquatic center is not able to be financed, i.e., fixing the existing pool so that there will be at least some place for the public to swim in the future.”
In the meantime, he said, he believes the MAPARD Board, by its action, “has taken the next step toward building an aquatic center.”
“We now need to get the word out that we are moving ahead and get input from the public on its position as to whether the public would be willing to pay for either option,” outlined in the feasibility study, Reynolds added.
Williams said the board is in a fortunate position in that it can build on the much-appreciated work of MAPARD’s Aquatic Committee and its consultant as the board moves the discussion into the public arena.
“I think we should continue the process to get more information about siting, cost, and programming, and ultimately leave the final decision to the voters in our district,” Williams said via e-mail.
TSE Consulting’s feasibility study included estimated five-year financial performances for each option. Both showed the aquatic center losing money in each of the first five years of operation based on varying cost recovery formulae. The report’s author suggested MAPARD “could successfully leverage its capabilities to improve the financial outcomes” by fundraising, including seeking charitable giving to help fund capital costs and corporate sponsorships to help with operating costs, to complement the revenue MAPARD would derive from a variety of other sources, including fees charged for swimming lessons and recreational swimming and use of the facility by a swim team and other specialized programming, as well as income generated from community partnerships with local schools and medical providers.
Whitson, who is also a member of the Aquatic Committee, called the feasibility study “a very good vehicle and guide” for planning for a pool in the west end of the county. He noted during the meeting, “Many populations in the community would benefit from access to a year-round pool.”
The Park and Rec Board also discussed scheduling a public meeting at which to share the feasibility study’s findings but did not settle on a date. The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 18, at Skyline Hospital.