Medford residents have the opportunity Nov. 6 to bring their community up to date by providing swimming pools that will serve residents for years to come. They should take that opportunity and approve Ballot Measure 15-115.
Medford city leaders have been working on plans to replace the city's two aging swimming pools for some time. Hawthorne Pool was closed in 2011 because it was leaking 30,000 gallons of water a day and could no longer be repaired. Jackson Pool on the city's west side is in little better shape.
Hawthorne was built 62 years ago; Jackson 52 years ago. They served Medford well, but have come to the end of their usefulness.
City leaders initially explored the idea of a water park — an aquatics recreation area with features designed to attract families from miles around. When it appeared such a facility could pay for itself with admission fees, it attracted some support, but it quickly became clear the water park would be more costly than originally thought.
To its credit, the City Council listened when Medford residents said they would not agree to pay for a water park but would consider traditional swimming pools.
The water park proposal would have cost $21 million; the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot would raise $14.5 million by increasing city property taxes approximately 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Most homes are assessed at a little more than half their market value. The average Medford homeowner would see their taxes increase less than $40 a year. The tax would be in effect for no more than 21 years while the bonds were being paid off.
City officials say the $14.5 million figure is the upper limit of what the pools may cost, and it may be possible to do the project for less, for instance by using a single contractor for both pools. In that case, the city would not sell all the bonds and residents would see slightly lower tax bills.
In addition to the property tax levy, water bills would increase 73 cents per month to cover operation and maintenance costs of the pools once they were built. Also to the council's credit, voters are being asked to approve the utility fee increase although a vote is not required.
The bond money would build a year-round, competition-size pool at Hawthorne Park. Jackson Pool would be replaced with a new, larger outdoor pool. The size of Jackson Pool would increase from 4,350 square feet to 6,000 square feet.
A city the size of Medford ought to provide up-to-date swimming pools for its residents. The proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot is a modest expense that would enhance the city's livability tremendously.
We recommend a yes vote on Ballot Measure 15-115.