Splashing into Craig’s pool debate: Residents’ concerns push pool back into 2018 budget, for now
There’s been a great deal of confusion in the community about whether or not Craig’s city pool is on the chopping block for 2018.
The short answer: as of Tuesday, it’s back in next year’s preliminary budget for the Parks and Recreation department, Director Dave Pike said, meaning it’s slated to stay open.
The more complicated answer: nothing is certain until Craig City Council finalizes next year’s budget in the coming months.
The source of people’s concern came from the fact that the pool was, in fact, cut from a previous version of the 2018 preliminary budget as of July, according to Pike.
However, “I was directed by the city manager to put it back in for the 2018 budget,” Pike said Thursday.
The move comes in response to more than half a dozen comments presented to council at their Aug. 8 and Aug. 22 meetings. More than 60 people showed up to each of the meetings, many of whom were there to show their support for the pool.
“That’s what local government is about… We want people to come in and give us their opinions. We’re supposed to be governing on the public’s will,” said City Manager Mike Foreman. “When we have that many people come in and voice their concern about one of our programs, then it’s our responsibility to try to make that happen.”
Foreman said that he, Pike and City Finance Director Bruce Nelson felt confident after Tuesday’s meeting that they could still maintain a balanced budget and keep the pool open.
“We believe there is enough funding this year to keep the pool open another year and also keep mosquito spraying and a couple other items on there,” Foreman said.
For 2017, budgeted costs for the pool were $368,000 with approximately $100,000 in projected revenues.
Those who expressed concern about the pool’s fate ranged from seniors to kids on the Craig Sea Sharks swim team to young lifeguards who depend on the summer employment.
“With a growing drug problem in our community I think it would be a total waste and a shame to take something that is not age, race or gender specific away from this community and throw everybody out on the streets,” aquatics instructor Anita Reynolds said at the Aug. 22 meeting. “I know pools aren’t money-makers… But you can’t put a price on health and happiness and a chance to bring families together.”
Reynolds shared that the pool sees roughly 14,000 visits every summer, and countless seniors also pleaded to council for the pool to remain open.
“It’s a really important amenity… It’s one of the few places our senior population can go and get exercise. In the wintertime they really suffer,” Pike said. “It’s also their community, 50 percent of it is social time which is just as important for their health and of course, that low-impact exercise is just what the doctor ordered.”
The pool closed this year on Aug. 22 and Pike had to cancel their September programming with the schools due to the resignation of the pool manager in June — a position which was then frozen due to budget constraints —and lack of available staffing.
As for the wave pool, Pike said its early closure this year due to mechanical problems showed what an important amenity it is for residents and visitors.
“The major attraction is the wave pool,” Pike said. “We found that our attendance really dropped off for those two weeks when the lap pool was open and the wave pool wasn’t.”
Though council must still review and discuss the budget in workshops beginning in September and October, Foreman was optimistic that the pool would find support with council in light of citizens’ concerns.
Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.