Four of the five commissioners of the White Salmon Valley Pool Metropolitan Park District (MPD) attended the White Salmon Valley School Board meeting on Feb. 28 to discuss the possibility of building the new community pool on or near the Columbia High School campus.

Lloyd DeKay, president of the MPD Board of Commissioners, noted that MPD is looking into alternative locations for the new pool because the location of the current pool lacks the potential for growth. Additionally, the current City Pool site was ruled out a few years ago by the School District. The land was swapped from City of White Salmon ownership specifically to be used to fulfill state-mandated space requirements for the Whitson student population. From the MPD’s perspective, that site would require additional expense for the demolition and removal of the existing facility that cannot be renovated.

Additional proposed locations are the city owned parking lot block across from Hulan L. Whitson Elementary School, the NW corner of Rhinegarten Park, and the current proposed City Pool site.

 “The Park District Commis-sioners feel it is their duty to the voters and taxpayers to review and evaluate potential sites for the new pool as part of ensuring they make the best and most cost-effective decisions about developing a new pool for the district,” according to a post on the MPD’s website and Facebook page.

On that same page, the MPD lined out why it believes these proposed sites are worth looking at, including the limitations each poses.

The City-owned Whitson parking lot is a viable location based on past feasibility studies. How-ever, based on the designs for the planned facility, it would be a tight fit leaving very little room for possible future expansion.

The site would also require demolition of an old bus barn with hazardous materials, and removal of a large, old growth tree from the property.

There are also additional concerns about parking impacts on the surrounding neighborhood and potential future impacts on school parking if the pool were to ever become a year-round facility.

The MPD looked at possibilities for a site in School District-owned Rhinegarten Park, which were ruled out a few years ago by the School District due to the loss of recreation and green space, as well as the increase in the already existing parking problems.

The School Board was receptive to the idea of putting a new pool on or near the high school campus, and even suggested potential locations, such as a district-owned lot south of the transportation center, or over on property behind the C-Court parking lot.

The two boards agreed that locating the pool facility at the CHS campus could be desirable based on several factors:

1. The facility would be available for school physical education, recreation, and general education. Teaching water safety, lifeguard training, swimming lessons, etc.

2. The facility would be available to develop private outside-of-school water sports and other programs.

3. The location is more central to the entire park district than the other considered sites.

4. The location is conveniently located, publicly accessible, and highly visible on a major walking, driving, recreational thoroughfare and an established “Safe Route to School.”

5. There are at least two potentially suitable areas that are unlikely to be used in the future by the School District.

6. There would be space for later facility expansion such as a community center.

7. There is abundant area available to be developed and used for parking.

8. The property could be made available by the School District at no cost to the park district.

9. The facility would be constructed, operated and maintained by the Pool District, supported by levy funds at no expense to the School District.

10. High school students are a prime resource for summer lifeguard and facility employment.

11. The School District could contract for their personnel to provide operation and maintenance support.

DeKay noted that many factors would have to be considered when looking at potential locations, and that this night was to ask if the district would be interested and to get permission to look at certain spots on the school property.

By consensus, the school board directed Superintendent Jerry Lewis to conduct a walk-around on the MS/HS campus property with park district commissioners to identify and review potential sites. They also suggested the park district contact Bell Design, their main engineering consultants, about site suitability and potential problems.

Board member Laurie Stanton also recommended that MPD investigate grants from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO).

“We have looked at a few RCO grants, unfortunately none of those grants allow for a covered pool, which is something we would want down the road to allow for the pool to be multi-season,” said DeKay.

Prior to the Feb. 28 meeting, MPD announced on its website and Facebook page that it had received a $50,00 grant from the Community Development Fund.

““The grant, originally proposed by County Commissioner David Sauter, is intended to enable the MPD to get set-up properly without going into a years-long financial hole due to the lack of 2019 tax levy receipts,” according to the announcement.

The grant proposal had been endorsed by the Klickitat County Commissioners with the condition that the City of White Salmon offer a similar support, which was met when the White Salmon City Council voted to cover $60,000 of net operating expenses for keeping the White Salmon Pool open during the 2019 summer season.

In the meantime, several administrative steps must be taken before the Community Development funds are available to be used:

The County must draft a contract agreement to be signed by MPD representatives.

The funds will only be available on a reimbursement basis, meaning payment must first be made (money the MPD doesn’t have), then receipts must be submitted for reimbursement.

To the previous point, the County will be working to arrange a $10,000 advance to provide initial working capital, to make payments and then submit receipts against the remaining $40,000.

The funds will be held in a specified MPD account by the County Treasurer and dispersed based on submitted warrants supported by receipts.

The funds may not be available for several weeks due to auditor’s control processes.

“Although the MPD operations must be extremely lean for the next year, in the end this is great news as it means the MPD will soon be marginally funded to be properly set up. This funding will cover necessities such as insurance, legal advice, limited administrative support, and fundraising support for a new White Salmon Valley Pool,” concludes the Facebook post.

 Due to this new information, MPD is now more able to focus on the project to build the new pool by the 2021 summer season.

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