Medford voters handily defeat pools measure

Medford voters on Tuesday appeared well on their way toward sinking a measure to float $14.5 million in bonds to replace the city's aging pools at Jackson and Hawthorne parks.

Unofficial returns showed Measure 15-115 failing by a sizable margin, with 56 percent of voters against the measure and 44 percent of votes in favor, according to the Jackson County Elections Division.

As of 10:40 p.m., the tally showed 10,933 votes in favor of the measure and 13,941 against.

The vote was a blow to city officials and community leaders looking for replacements to the city's two outdoor aquatic facilities that were both up and running while Dwight Eisenhower was still president.

Hawthorne Pool, which was closed last year, opened in 1952 and Jackson Pool opened in the summer of 1960.

If the bond passed, plans were to built a new pool with a retractable roof at Hawthorne Park and an open-aired pool at Jackson School, almost doubling the size of the existing structures. Both were set to open in 2014.

"The real losers are the children of Medford," said Rich Hansen, chairman of the Medford Parks Commission and chairman of the Swim Oregon political-action committee that ran the campaign for the measure. "It's going to be a long, hot summer with just one little pool."

The campaign spent about $20,000 in donations and faced no organized opposition but perhaps the fell prey to the stiffest of competitors facing money measures in a down economy — voters' pocket books.

The measure would have cost voters 15 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value. The owners of a house with an assessed value of $200,000, for example, would have seen their tax bill increase by $30 in property taxes annually.

"This is a money issue," Hansen said. "There's always opposition to money issues."

The city still plans to re-open Jackson Pool next year for its 53rd Memorial Day to Labor Day run. That pool, however, has its own problems that city officials don't consider repairable, he said.

Hansen said he does not know how long it will hold up as Medford's last municipal pool.

"We tried our best to bring new pools to town," Hansen said. "Perhaps they'll try this again in six or eight years."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.


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