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No clear lane forward for pool

The 34-year-old Daniel Meyer pool is falling apart, the parks director said at last week's meeting of the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission.

Build in 1983 in Hunter Park on Homes Avenue, Daniel Meyer pool has served generations of Ashlanders every summer since, offering lap swim, rec swim, water fitness classes and swim lessons. In 2015, Parks and Recreation Commission voted to open the pool in the winter to serve high school competitive swim teams after  Southern Oregon University (SOU) drained its pool and demolished the gym it was in.

Now the pool is falling apart, Parks Director Michael Black said. Parts of the pool’s equipment and machinery need replacement multiple times every year. Most recently, Parks has closed the pool for almost a month due to a malfunctioning pump.

“Daniel Meyer needs renovation right now. It’s getting worse and worse every year,” Black said. “We tried, but you can only patch things up so many times before you have to replace it all together.”

But it hasn’t been easy, Black said.

Parks is starting to exhaust its options for renovating and expanding Daniel Meyer pool after SOU, YMCA and Ashland School District had all turned down APRC’s offer to revive a pool. At a joint meeting with the City Council in May, Parks and Recreation Commission said it committed to come up with a plan for the renovation. Still “there isn’t a clear path for it right now,” Black said.

The most current plan is to expand Daniel Meyer pool into “an adequate facility that would provide for both recreation and competitive swimming” that's open year round. The 8-foot deep pool would accommodate eight lanes for swimmers. It would also have a cover, similar to one over the Lithia Park ice rink, to keep it warm through the winter.

The construction cost is estimated at $3.5 million — the cover alone would cost up to $80,000 to purchase and maintain. That is a scale back from the initial plan to rebuild the pool from scratch, which would cost between $7.5 to $10 million.

The new pool would also raise the annual operational cost from $160,000 to $306,000 — a big hurdle to get through, Black said.

“Obviously we don’t have the money to do it — it’s not a clear path,” Black said.

One plan, Black said, is to piggyback on a school bond with Ashland and Phoenix/Talent School District on the ballot in November next year to cover the construction costs. The Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission (APRC) will also ask the two school districts to contribute to the increased operational bill.

APRC and the Ashland School District Board have scheduled a joint meeting on Jan. 29 at the Council Chambers, 1175 East Main St., to discuss the possibility, Black said.

Ashland High School Swim Team Todd Lantry wrote a letter supporting the plan, saying it makes “the most sense by being cost-effective and straightforward.” The letter is co-signed by the Southern Oregon Aquatics Committee, Ashland High School Athletic Director Karl Kemper, Phoenix High School Swim Team, Board of Southern Oregon Water Polo, Board of Rogue Valley Masters Swim Team and Rogue Sharks Swim Team.

High school competitive swim teams in Ashland and Phoenix/Talent districts have gone without a proper competitive swimming pool for three years, since SOU demolished its pool in 2015. Phoenix/Talent district had considered building its own pool, but with the price tag of $10 million, the board decided against it.

“It has left a big gap,” Black said.

Several Ashland residents have expressed opposition to the plan, saying it could jeopardize the school bond more public input needs to be taken.

Another option is to ask the city to go out for a bond, which hasn’t been thoroughly discussed with the city, or to just fix the existing pool for roughly $2.5 million, Black said.

“Either way ... (Daniel Meyer) needs work,” he said. “We just don’t know where to turn.”

— Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or tnguyen@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.