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Swimming plan meets a need

Last week's unbroken string of triple-digit temperatures pointed to a glaring deficiency in Medford's otherwise fine livability. We have only one public swimming pool still operating, and it is inadequate to meet the needs of a city of 75,000 people.

The City Council voted Thursday to give city residents an opportunity to solve that problem by building two new swimming pools.

Hawthorne Pool is more than 60 years old and has been shuttered since 2011 when the city determined it was leaking more than 30,000 gallons of water a day and could not be repaired.

Jackson Pool, which attracts more than 25,000 swimmer visits every year, cannot accommodate the overflow from Hawthorne. Swimmers are frequently turned away. Jackson is an aging facility as well, and needs to be replaced.

The path to the final pool proposal was not a smooth one. City officials initially proposed an aquatics park near the intersection of Barnett Road and Highland Drive, but public reaction was negative. Many residents considered the water park idea to be a luxury in a down economy.

To their credit, city officials listened, scrapped that idea and came back with a proposal to build two conventional swimming pools, replacing the old ones in Hawthorne Park and next to Jackson Elementary School. The Hawthorne pool will be a 50-meter, competition-sized facility with a cover that will allow it to be used all year long — something Medford has lacked.

An all-weather competition pool also can be used to host swim meets, which would boost the local economy just as the U.S. Cellular Community Park has done.

Both pools can be completed for $14.5 million — a much lower price tag than the aquatics park. The bond levy will increase property taxes $40 a year on a house assessed at $207,000. That's a far cry from the $100 a year originally proposed to build a water park and replace Jackson Pool.

Hawthorne and Jackson pools have served Medford well for many years, but they were not designed to last forever. The city needs swimming pools for recreation and to provide an opportunity for local children to learn to swim. Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death among children, and teaching them to swim will save lives.