The Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission Wednesday directed city staff to consult with the Ashland Family YMCA to build a new pool, effectively turning down an offer from Southern Oregon University.
The university is scheduled to close its competition pool in June as part of the university's remodeling of its McNeil Pavilion. The construction plan would make it impossible to retain the pool, which is primarily used by local schools and the Rogue Valley Masters swim group.
The closure will leave the area without a competition-sized pool deep enough for water polo matches or to meet the requirements of the masters swimming program.
In response to public demand to retain a competition swimming facility, the parks department had looked at two options for a new pool. The university had offered to partner with the city on building a similar replacement on school property, which would require the city to commit by March, in time for SOU's budget planning deadline. That proposal would have the city provide roughly $2 million, with slightly over $3 million coming from the state in capital-improvement funds.
Parks Director Michael Black said the operating costs likely would run between $250,000 and $500,000 a year.
Commission members worried committing to the project by March would mean the city wouldn't be able to conduct a feasibility study on the plans and questioned whether the proposal, which had been negotiated with the help of state Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, was the city's best bang for its buck.
"What we might be able to get, with substantial assistance from the state, is a replacement of an antiquated facility," said Ashland City Councilor Rich Rosenthal.
Rosenthal said he was more interested in the second option, which would see the city partner with the YMCA, which would build the pool on nearby parks property. Black said that under that arrangement, the YMCA would responsible for raising the capital on its own.
Parks Commissioner Rick Landt said that arrangement would allow the city to stipulate the design of the pool under the terms of the YMCA's lease. The commission directed Black and City Administrator Dave Kanner to set up talks with the YMCA to establish the terms of the proposal before the city moves forward.
Reach reporter Thomas Moriarty at 541-776-4471, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at @ThomasDMoriarty.