Supes move pool project forward
Aug. 27, 2013 — A proposed plan for a community swimming pool passed its first hurdle during a Tuesday, Aug. 20 meeting of the Lassen County Board of Supervisors.
After a lengthy discussion the board unanimously approved county staff to work with the city in drafting the principles of a joint powers agreement and adding $200,000 as a line item in the budget. The decision garnered applause from the community members who filled the boardroom at 707 Nevada St. Some found seats on the floor, or stood outside the room.
The supervisors will be holding budget hearings the week of Sept. 3 and as a line item, the allocated $200,000 will be considered during the process.
When discussions began, board chairman Jack Hanson said, “We’re not necessarily here to approve the concept. It will be taken in total with the budget.”
Most of those who spoke voiced support for a swimming pool citing health benefits for senior citizens and safety issues with a whole generation of children growing up not knowing how to swim.
Lassen County has been without a public pool since the previous aquatic facility, Roosevelt Pool, closed in December 2004 due to structural safety issues.
Parent Reesa Rice told the board she wanted to represent the younger generation’s vote of supporting a swimming pool.
She shared about going to public swim at Roosevelt Pool during her childhood and being a member of the Lassen Aquatic swim team was one of her best memories during her middle school years.
Rice then had the opportunity to work at the pool after graduation and “taught literally hundreds, if not thousands, of children to swim in this community.”
Now those children are in high school and getting ready to graduate.
“And there’s such a huge age gap there and the problem’s been ignored for so long and put on the back burner for so long,” Rice said.
Another point community members made was keeping and attracting families to the area as well as the money spent outside of the community when families are able to take their children elsewhere for swimming lessons.
Rice said she now has children of her own and they don’t know how to swim up to her standards, because the only opportunity afforded to them are when is when they travel to Klamath Falls or Reno.
“I spend money out of my own pocket that I’d be more than happy to put into a pool in this community and this city. And I think there’s lots and lots of people my age (who) feel that exact same way and I know you would have their support,” she said.
She also told the board its vote would be one of the deciding factors of her family staying in the community and giving her children the opportunities she helped bestow upon others.
Tracy Langslet told the board her family travels to Redding for a week during the summer to take lessons and they spend about $1,000 to $1,200 because they buy gas and food and stay in a motel.
The board’s approval is part of the first step of a plan proposed by Supervisor Jim Chapman and Susanville City Councilmember Brian Wilson.
Some of the people who spoke also thanked Chapman and Wilson for spearheading the project.
According to their proposal, the project would be governed by a newly created joint powers agency comprised of two members from the city council and two members from the board of supervisors. Those four would appoint a fifth member from the public who is not affiliated with either the city or the county.
Both the city and the county would agree to share equally the cost of building and operating the pool to be constructed somewhere in the Susanville area.
Wilson and Chapman propose both the city and the county shall “agree to appropriate an amount up to $200,000 per year” for the next 15 years to build and operate the pool. Before the end of the 15-year period, a successor agency, such as a recreation district, will assume responsibility for the operation of the facility.
According to Supervisor Larry Wosick the swimming pool was one of the things that motivated him to get involved as a supervisor.
“I would consider my four years here to be unfulfilled and shallow if I couldn’t help get a swimming pool here,” Wosick said.
Supervisor Bob Pyle asked where the other local government agencies were: Lassen Union High School District, Susanville School District, Lassen Community College, Diamond Mountain Casino and Hotel, and Banner Lassen Medical Center.
“This is a community project. These people are going to be using this pool extensively. Why aren’t they here helping?”
Banner Lassen Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Bob Marshall had given a presentation earlier in the morning and was still in attendance and Lassen County Superintendent of Schools Rich DuVarney was also present for part of the discussion.
Resident Marshall Leve pointed out Lassen Union High School and Lassen Community College started school that week and might be busy with something else, but they have been at pool meetings with County Administrative Officer Martin Nichols.
Pyle said he understood that, but those entities haven’t committed anything.
Supervisor Aaron Albaugh got some good-natured laughs and applause as he advertised the fact Bieber has a pool, open three months a year. Bieber also has restaurants and a motel, so rather than going to Redding or Reno, people could go there.
However, he said no county money went into building the swimming pool.
The community got together and put their money together, got grants, worked hard and got it done.
But the swimming pool also costs $30,000 a year to run. Approximately $11,000 comes from swimming lessons and private parties, $13,000 came from donations and fundraisers, according to Albaugh.
“These are county dollars we’re talking about here. If I’m going to vote on this here, there’s going to be, probably not quite this many people, who will show up from Big Valley and say, ‘Hey, where’s our money for our pool to keep us going?” He said. “The community members have invested a lot of time and a lot of money into that, and now we’re investing into two pools? That’s going to be kind of hard to be fair and equitable.”
He said, “I think the county needs to help facilitate getting a pool going, but funding half of it, I’m going to have a real problem with to be honest with you. ”
Chapman said he appreciated Albaugh’s sentiments and described Bieber’s results as remarkable.
He described the difference in dynamics between Big Valley and the Susanville area and said 65 percent of Albaugh’s constituents live in the northern Susanville area.
He said, “I think we need to get a start. And to me, the vote today doesn’t include implementing that. I think we just need to at least have an opportunity to have that discussion and debate in the context of the budget hearing and that’s procedurally what we’re trying to achieve today. And hopefully we can give the community the chance to do that.”
Former aquatics manager and swim coach Tony Jonas said, “I’m to the concession now we need to build an outdoor facility that operates 16 to 18 weeks out of the year. Operate the thing, get the programming in the water and then let the community direct us on where we go from there … but let us get to that level. That’s the important thing. This conversation, unless it goes to budget here, and across the street, its going to die again and what is it going to take us to regenerate the enthusiasm and momentum we have going right now?”
Hanson said he would work with Chapman during the budgetary process in finding the $200,000.
When polled for his vote, Albaugh said “aye on this part.”
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