Photo by Michelle Scott
Mike Wellman (right) and Brooks Heard of Wellman Associates propose a new location for the new White Salmon swimming pool during the White Salmon Valley School Board’s meeting Nov. 19. School board members plan to discuss the proposed location during an upcoming special workshop.
As of Wednesday, November 25, 2015
The White Salmon Valley School Board took no action last Thursday following a presentation and discussion about School District-own-ed property that has not been previously studied as a site for a new city swimming pool.
White Salmon Pool Committee chairperson Karen Skiles and consulting engineer Mike Wellman, of Wellman Associates, proposed the study of a third in-city location to the School Board during its monthly meeting, in the Columbia High School library.
“Just a brief recap: At the end of 2014 the [Bruce and Mary Steven-son Foundation] donated $55,000 to the city to evaluate what to do with the pool and Wellman Associates was hired to do that study and around June of 2015 it was finished and presented to council,” explained Skiles.
“We’ve been tasked with the responsibility to recommend something, a site, features, what should we do,” explained Skiles. “So we’ve been trying to get input through a survey that was open for a couple of months, and a work shop.”
Skiles and City Councilor/Pool Committee member Bill Werst approached the School Board in Au-gust to discuss possible locations for the future pool, since all of the potential sites were owned by the district. During that discussion the committee came away with two points from the board: lack of space at the current pool location and parking concerns if the pool were moved across the street to Rheingarten Park. The overall consensus the Pool Committee gathered was that the board preferred the new pool be located by the middle school.
An overview of the results from the pool survey was then presented to board members, which broke down the 424 total responses. Of those responses 189 were in the city limits of White Salmon. “That be-comes important when you get to the discussion of the tax levy,” Skiles explained.
The survey asked: how families would use the swimming pool, how often, rating of how important the pool was to respondents, whether respondents would volunteer to help run the pool, and if respondents would donate to the pool cause.
“I really am trying hard to get across the idea that yes there will need to be a levy to support the operation of the pool. Research has shown that user fees can only be expected to support 50-75 percent of the cost of operating a pool,” said Skiles. She also noted Hood River’s user fees covered about 51% of the pool’s cost this last year.
“The goal is to have at least half your user fees cover 50 percent of costs to operate the pool,” said Skiles, “realizing that we asked people, ‘would you be willing to support O and M [operations and maintenance] with a levy, and a donation, all of the above?’”
At last count the committee has $700,000 earmarked specifically for the pool’s development.
“I really think the time is right and think that we should make a go of it,” said Skiles.
Wellman presented a rough sketch of the potential location that could be developed into the future pool, which utilized the parking lot east of the Whitson Elementary School entrance.
“We were asked by the city to look at this additional site,” said Wellman. “On our original app-roach to the board, we were told that they want to keep it at the existing site and then the funders said they would look at this site across the street.”
Wellman made it clear that they didn’t want to proceed with the idea of developing the lot from across the elementary school unless the board backed the idea. “This is the first phase of these proposed scope of services on these meetings with the school board and the city of White Salmon to try and make sure that we’re all on the same sheet of paper,” said Wellman.
“I think one of the things that the city wanted us to do was see if there are any major concerns with this site that might prevent it from being used for a public swimming pool,” noted Wellman. “We don’t want to start down this road if it isn’t an option.”
School board members expressed some concern with the issue of parking. If the pool were built in the proposed site board members questioned where school staff would park, and where users of the pool would park, since parking around the school is already sparse.
To determine traffic and parking needs, school board members suggested counting cars when Wellman questioned the amount of parking spaces needed. The conversation closed without action; however, the School Board indicated it intends to take the matter up in a special workshop for further discussion before voting on the Pool Committee’s request.