TONASKET – The Tonasket City Council was in agreement at its Tuesday, June 26, meeting that the city swimming pool needs to be replaced — not just repaired.
How to go about doing that was the subject of a lengthy discussion at which the council made clear it felt that would best be accomplished by a broad-based coalition of the community, including neighboring towns outside the Tonasket city limits.
Though the decision not to re-open the pool was made last fall, it’s only been since the pool remained empty this summer that council members have been getting significant feedback from residents.
Mayor Patrick Plumb said he’d been approached by an increasing number of people.
“We need to decide on a direction,” said city clerk Alice Attwood, asking whether the pool should be rebuilt or repaired. And if a new pool is built, asked if it should be an indoor or outdoor pool, or in the same place (at History Park) or a new location.
Before the council started its discussion, Attwood referred them to an article from The Seattle Times that referred to problems with funding existing indoor pools in the Seattle area, which cost an average of about $650,000 annually to maintain.
Council members Jean Ramsey, Jill Vugteveen, Selena Hines and Scott Olson agreed that building a new outdoor pool in the same location was the preferred option.
“I’d really like to see a new pool in the same area,” Ramsey said, adding that the cost of heating, insurance and additional employees to maintain a year-round indoor pool was likely too expensive.
“I think we need to look at a broader spectrum than just the kids,” Olson said. “Such as rehab and adult fitness. Hopefully we could find a way to keep it open for more than just a couple of months, like maybe opening in April. But I don’t think the city should take it on by itself.”
“We tried repairing (the existing pool) long enough,” Vugteveen said. “I like what Scott talks about. It would be nice if we can offer more than just through the summer months, look to involve the school and the hospital.”
Plumb added his agreement that accounting for the long-term maintenance of the pool was as important as getting a new one built.
“Even if we had a pool ready to drop into the ground now, there’s still the maintenance,” he said. “Tonasket has big dreams. Just look at Green Okanogan (and its recycling center project). Look at the school we have.
“It’s not impossible, if we can get it funded. But we need to take care of it, too. It needs to be a true community project. We need to invite the hospital board, county commissioners, school board, develop a plan to keep it ongoing.”
Olson pointed out that with people driving from Tonasket to Omak and Osoyoos to find a pool to swim in, that it would have plenty of appeal to people outside Tonasket itself.
Green Okanogan’s Peter James, who was in attendance, drove that point home.
“I told the Kiwanis the pool would be talked about here tonight,” he said. “Four people approached me that live outside the city. Their interest is in an indoor pool, and they all said they would volunteer to be on a pool committee.”
“We need to press the point that this is not just for the city, but for the whole area,” Ramsey said.
Olson said he envisioned a pool district that would spearhead the project, with the city as a co-facilitator.
“The city would hold onto the land and liability,” Olson said. “But we need to get others to take ownership of it. We need to get people that have the vision to spearhead it, not just people who share our vision.”
After further discussion, Olson said he would contact a number of the people that had shown a passion for the pool to see if they would be interested in being part of a community committee to lead the project.
“It needs to be a community drive, not just a city drive,” Olson said. “I’ll make some calls, and if people say ‘no’ I’ll just work down the list.”
“If we run aground, at the next council meeting we can talk about setting up a neutral (site) meeting,” Plumb said. “We’re at the point where we need official representatives from other groups.”
Plumb later made a plea on Facebook for community participation.
“The Tonasket City Council and Mayor would officially ask all people in the Tonasket and Oroville areas to consider giving your time to meeting about the Tonasket City Pool,” he wrote. “We would like to establish a working community group to see what the community would like to do about re-opening and keeping a pool going for the future.
“I would very much appreciate the support of Crumbacher, Loomis, Riverside, Omak, Bodie, Wauconda, Havillah, Chesaw, Enterprise, Nighthawk, Bonaparte, Aeneas Valley, Republic, Malo, Okanogan, Malott, Molson, and any other households that consider themselves people that enjoy pools in the area.”
Anyone interested in serving on a pool committee should contact Attwood at (509) 486-1831, or email@example.com.