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Sandy to close pool at end of May posted on 04/01/2019

Following a presentation by architecture firm Opsis on Monday, March 11 and further discussion on Monday, March 18, the Sandy City Council voted to temporarily close the Olin Bignall Aquatic Center on Friday, May 31.

Sandy City Manager Jordan Wheeler told the Mountain Times that the city needs to refine the vision for the pool, which is part of a larger Sandy Community Campus idea that could cost as much as $70 million.

“It’s important for the public to know that the council values the pool and sees it as a value for the public,” Wheeler said. “We’re just now continuing on the path of talking about the Community Campus and what the public’s vision and plan is for that campus.”

Wheeler, who became the City Manager in January, noted that the city has seen some turnover on the council, including the mayor, and that one of the goals established at a retreat in January was to develop a plan for the Community Campus. But with the pool requiring approximately $350,000 per year from the city’s general fund to keep it operating and the city seeing other funding challenges, including PERS, police staffing and much needed wastewater upgrades, closing the pool helps relieve the budget burden.

“That’s money that’s hard to come by,” Wheeler said. “These are things the council had to weigh.”

The city will look into how to make improvements to the pool while also examining sources of funding for its operations, including forming a possible special taxing district. Wheeler noted that if the city does pursue a special district or general obligation bond, it could appear on the ballot in 2020.

Wheeler added that the two council meetings where the fate of the pool was discussed were both well attended and that the city’s residents are “passionate” about the pool. And while the councilors considered keeping the pool open until September, the estimated cost, approximately $80,000 according to Wheeler, factored heavily in the decision.

The final vote to close the pool was 6-1, with councilor Jan Lee casting the dissenting vote. There is no date set for the closure to end.

An agreement between the city and the Oregon Trail School District (OTSD) for the use of the pool by the district in exchange for waiving fees for the city’s use of district facilities ended on Feb. 17. The city estimated the fee for the district to use the pool, if it were to remain open, at approximately $11,000. OTSD Communications Director Julia Monteith noted in an email to the Mountain Times that the Athletics Director is looking into alternatives for the district’s water sports teams, including possibly using facilities at Mount Hood Community College.

Wheeler noted that the city will tackle a new budget in the coming months and will have to consider ways to pay for a new wastewater treatment plan and a gap in the public safety budget, including new fees for those areas.

“That’s something that’s in the minds of the council as they consider operations of a pool,” Wheeler said. “The council has to make some choices now, maintaining level of service or reduce service to balance the budget.”

Wheeler added that other options to help pay for the wastewater could include grants or the state legislature. For more information on the city’s current budget, read Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam’s column on page 7 of this edition. For more information on the pool, visit https://www.ci.sandy.or.us/projects/

By Garth Guibord/MT

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