Swimming pool talk continues in Tonasket council

Tonasket Swimming Pool
The Tonasket municipal swimming pool at History Park was closed by the city because of high maintenance and operations costs. G-T File Photo

TONASKET – Just about everyone wants a swimming pool in the city of Tonasket.

How to go about funding the construction — and, more problematically, the maintenance — of a pool has been the topic of discussion at several Tonasket City Council meetings in recent months.

Joyce Fancher, who organized the first “friends of the pool” community meeting in early September, was present at the Tuesday, Sept. 25 council meeting to further discuss how to get such a project underway.

Fancher said that the first meeting was primarily to get more focus on the project.

“We realized we want a pool, and it needs to be in the city limits,” Fancher said. “We envision a pool with a longer usability — not year round — but with a longer usability season. We had some interesting ideas, grants that were brought forward that were a real possibility of us vying for.

“At this point, the committee decided we couldn’t go any farther without coming back to the city council. We know there was a feasibility study done about a year ago and would like to see the city continue in that avenue. We have a lot of supporters, but we don’t have the funding or resources to do that on our own. We need the city and the council to help.”

Fancher said further study needs to be done to determine what exactly needs to be done, where it is to be built, who would use the pool.

“We need more information,” she said. “More people need to have input. “We’re going to ask a lot of some people. There’s going to need to be a lot of stakeholders,” she added, mentioning the school district and the hospital as possibilities.

“I just think us taking the lead puts a huge burden on the taxpayers of a small community,” said council member Scott Olson. “Creating a parks district or creating a larger group, and then us using the resources we have to go out and look for grants is one thing. Having us take the lead could end up with us providing the pool to a huge community with only a few people paying, and we haven’t been able to afford that. I’m hoping for a way to work together… it just sounds like you’re punting it back to us.”

Mayor Patrick Plumb asked for city clerk Alice Attwood’s take on the meeting, as she had been present.

“We need a product or a study or plan to go out and ask the funding, that shows what we want to build in a certain spot,” she said. “At this point, we as the ‘friends of the pool’ don’t have that ability or resource. There’s not a way to say ‘This is what we’re looking at.'”

Peter James, who has expressed strong interest in helping with the pool project summarized the maintenance expense problem.

“Everybody from out of town uses the pool, but the taxpayers in the city pay for those people to use it,” James said. “The maintenance should be spread out to the larger population somehow, which seems like the first thing to investigate.”

James said he’d discussed the possibility of a school location with Tonasket School District superintendent Paul Turner, as well as a location inside of one of the old warehouses.

“The city is going to have some investment, but I don’t know it would be appropriate if they’re trying to include more of an area,” James said. “The school and hospital are others that could benefit from… a longer term pool. Paying for maintenance on a pool that’s open for two months is a waste.”

“We all agree and support a pool,” said council member Jill Vugteveen. “The problem is how can we (pay for) maintenance? What would would happen to our taxpayers that it will fall on if we have other stakeholders that we lose?”

“If other organizations agree to contribute (like the school or hospital),” said council member Jean Ramsey. “What happens if they get in their own budget binds? Would the city get left holding the bag?”

Some alternative options for the type of pool were brought up, such as using a salt water system.

Council member Selena Hines pointed out that in her personal pool, after switching from a chlorinated to a salt water system, chemical costs dropped from $50 a week to $20 for the whole summer.

“Grants are available that we qualify for,” Fancher said. “But they are for outdoor pools only. We could put up a little dome or something that could extend our season from April to October.

“I think what we need from the city — we need the expertise of a firm to give us locations in the city, which can make a huge difference in cost … Then a friends of the pool can start holding meetings and say, ‘This is what we want to do. What do you think? What do you want to buy in for?’ But until we have something to show, it’s not going to happen.”

Fancher said she wanted a project plan — not necessarily a city-originated plan — to present to the public to discuss.

Olson said that finding ways to get other groups to contribute to additional feasibility plans or blueprints could be one way to make that happen. The council allowed Fancher to take the results of the feasibility study completed last year to see if the information it contained was adequate.

Fancher said that after she and others could review the study she would work to organize another meeting.

“This does seem like a bigger project than our budget is going to allow for some of these dreams,” said Mayor Patrick Plumb. “I want to thank Stanglands for establishing a fund to contribute to this. If we can find a way for an ongoing maintenance fund or endowment that could do that, similar to Davenport or Twisp, it would be cool as a community with them to make this happen.

“I look forward to getting that date and time (for the next ‘friends of the pool’ meeting).”