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Pool measure makes sense for Medford

Medford has just been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring our city's pools into a new era. This past week the Medford City Council voted to place a bond measure on the Nov. 6 general election ballot to replace both our old swimming pools. This action culminates years of work by the Parks and Recreation Department and the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Medford's two community pools were built 50 to 60 years ago when our population was barely 20,000 people. Hawthorne Pool closed in 2011, and it is not economically feasible to repair or update Jackson Pool. Children are frequently turned away from this outdated pool on hot summer days for lack of room.

We're no longer talking about the water park suggested a year ago, but a much more economical package that costs considerably less than the earlier proposal.

This $14.5 million bond would pay for the construction of a year-round covered competition, teaching, recreation and therapy pool at Hawthorne Park. It would be the only 50-meter pool in our area capable of hosting regional meets. Under this measure, the city would also replace the current small Jackson Park pool with a seasonal facility that would include a swim/splash tank and an expanded deck and shade areas.

Swimming offers healthful family recreation, and swimming lessons save lives, especially in Southern Oregon with our many waterways, when we remember that drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death among young people.

Plus, a proposed second, smaller, warm-water, indoor pool at Hawthorne Park would offer senior citizens and everyone else in need of water therapy or aerobics a year-round source for exercise and recreation. It would also double as a "warm up" pool for competitive swimmers.

The main pool at Hawthorne Park will be a 50-meter indoor tank that will more than double the swimming capacity there and would be open year-round, not just during the summer months. There would be increased space for swim lessons, a water slide, recreational open swim areas, and lap swimming where area swim teams can practice and host competitive meets. Right now our swim teams have to travel out of the area for meets. And all of this would help Medford businesses to profit from increased tourism.

This bond measure would average slightly more than $31 a year in higher property taxes for an average Medford homeowner. That works out to an increase of only $2.50 a month. When the pools are completed, the city would raise the Park Utility Fee less than $9 a year or 73 cents a month per household, to cover pool operations and maintenance. It would also establish a major replacement fund for the future.

The Swim Medford Political Action Committee is a group of local volunteers working to let the community know about this great opportunity. We firmly believe that a cost of less than $40 a year for the average homeowner is an affordable answer for new, better, bigger pools for our growing city. Right now, low interest rates also make borrowing costs reasonable and construction costs much more affordable. So this may be the best chance we'll have to replace our pools.

Two new pools — one for seasonal family fun at Jackson Park, and the other a covered, year-round facility at Hawthorne Park — would extend the swimming season and make room for everyone who wants to swim, play, compete, enjoy water therapy, or just relax. Both new pools would also have expanded parking areas to accommodate larger crowds.

Please join Swim Medford in supporting the passage of this important measure. Our all-volunteer committee has about a dozen community members. We need more volunteers to help "get out the vote," and we also need financial support for our campaign.

For more information, check our website at www.swimmedford.org.

Please join us in a resounding "yes" vote for Medford pools.

Rich Hansen is chairman of the Swim Medford PAC. Both of his children were competitive swimmers.