Ashland's thirst for a new competition-size, year-around swimming pool could be quenched by a plan revealed Tuesday night to a combined meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission and the City Council.
Parks and Recreation Director Michael Black unveiled a roughly $2.5 million to $3 million option at the current site of the Daniel Meyer Pool in Hunter Park on Homes Avenue, near the Ashland Senior Center and Walker Elementary. The current pool is not year around, is not deep enough for serious competitive swimmers and allows for only six lanes. The new pool, which would be built from scratch, would accommodate eight lanes for swimmers, would be 8 feet deep and would have a cover, similar to one over the Lithia Park skating rink, to keep it warm through the winter.
The search for a pool solution started when Southern Oregon University tore down McNeil Pavilion and took out the community’s only competition sized pool open to the public. Built in 1957, the massive athletic complex was demolished to make room for a new facility. The university has agreed to provide space for a pool if the community agrees to build it and maintain it, but Black said that would be cost-prohibitive.
The new plan would offer a pool to competitive swimmers of all ages, including an option for Ashland School District swimmers. Black said he plans to approach the district to partner with Parks and Recreation to build a pool.
“School districts need to get behind it, otherwise it’s not sustainable, we won’t be able to continue with it,” he said.
In addition to the cost of taking out the current pool and rebuilding it, the pool would require addition parking spaces at a cost of roughly $200,000, according to Black. It would be able to continue utilizing the current bathrooms, shower house and other amenities.
Outside of the possibility of school district funding, Black raised the idea of asking voters to approve a bond measure to pay for the pool.
Councilor Pam Marsh expressed support for the pool rebuild.
“Having a swimming pool available for a community like this is a basic need," she said.
The council and commission approved Black's request to continue exploring pool options.
Ashland City Manager Dave Kanner also made the case to the group to raise the amount of money the parks department receives from the city's food and beverage tax, suggesting an additional $130,000 be allocated for equipment to maintain parks. The tax is projected to bring in $2.5 million this year, an increase over previous years.
While the group made no decisions, members discussed putting the matter on the ballot for voters to consider, along with a previous proposal to direct some of the additional food tax revenues toward maintaining streets.
“It needs to be very specific and transparent in taking it to the voters," Councilor Greg Lemhouse said. "There’s a great nexus between streets, parks and wastewater treatment plants. Tourists use these facilities, why wouldn’t we ask them to pay their share?”
Mayor John Stromberg agreed, saying any request to redirect receipts from the food and beverage tax — which was first approved in 1990 and re-approved in 2009 — should be made clear to voters.
“The public is very sensitive about a tax," Stromberg said. "We want to think about what election we put this into.”
The City Council had previously discussed putting the reallocation of funds on the November ballot, when there is expected to be a large voter turnout, which would more fully reflect voters' wishes.
Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.