By Naomi Hatch
The Snowflake Town Council voted last week to close the Snowflake Swimming Pool due to the condition of the building and safety concerns.
“Since we last visited the pool, it has had a little more damage,” Parks and Recreation Department Don Camacho advised the council. He presented photographs of the interior of the pool, specifically a cross beam that has cracked and is bending. He also had several photos of mold caused by the leaking roof.
Camacho had met with Show Low pool staff to get approximate costs of running the pool for the council, as well as possible future courses of action.
The cost to construct a new facility would be $3 million, creating a debt service of $200,000 per year, which would be an average cost to taxpayers of $50 per year. He noted the average assessed value of a home in Snowflake is $83,000.
To keep the pool open year round it would cost $249,400 for personnel and $138,000 in operating expenditures. With revenues estimated at $94,800, it would require a subsidy of $292,600 a year from the town’s general fund.
If the facility was in full operation for two months and an additional two months for lap swim, it would cost $35,000 for personnel and $30,000 operating expenditures. With $35,000 in estimated revenues, the required subsidy would be $30,000. This is approximately the cost that the town has been paying to keep the pool open for two months and two months of lap swim.
The cost to replace the roof would be $100,000.
Camacho said that alternative funding through a $100,000 tax levy would cost taxpayers $26.19 per year for the average assessed value of a home and a $50,000 tax levy would cost $13.10 per year for the average home.
Over an hour of discussion followed Camacho’s presentation.
“This is by far one of the toughest subjects we’ve had to deal with,” said Town Manager Paul Watson, noting that he met with community members and with staff trying to come up with alternatives. “We haven’t come up with any good alternatives.
“All the consultants that we’ve had in there are telling us that the facility, and if we brought them back in especially after this latest issue with the cross beam, is unsafe, so for us to open it right now is not in the public interest, in my opinion.”
Watson noted that the pool is 40-plus years old and has not been well maintained. He said he was not pointing fingers, “It’s just where we’re at.”
In response to a question posed by Mayor Kelly Willis, Camacho said that the engineer stated that the pool itself does not have cracks or leaks, but it has never been plastered and the pipes are rusted. He said that engineers recommended they build a new pool inside the existing pool.
Councilman Stuart Hensley commented that the boilers haven’t been worked on for 40 years.
Councilman Lynn Johnson reminded them that at a previous meeting it was decided to put a feeler out on the utility bill.
Watson explained that based on election results last year and the fact that every bond failed, he did not put bonding for the pool to the public.
Councilman Tom Poscharsky said that since the pool is used by both communities, they should look at a new community pool along with their sister city, Taylor.
Johnson noted that 600 kids swam last year, stating, “We’re looking at a facility that is accommodating a need of the people in the community.”
The councilman said that these are tough economic times, but the town is subsidizing the library, golf course and parks.
“If they aren’t producing, we need to look at them with the same scrutiny,” said Johnson.
“These are tough times,” he continued. “I still think we need to bring it to the people.”
Camacho noted that the parks couldn’t be compared to the pool, because thousands of people participate in sports and use the parks.
“I looked at it today and was shocked at the structural damage. The roof has to be addressed or you’ve got major liability,” said Town Attorney Robert Hall.
“Personally, I don’t think we have a choice. We need to close it, but we have to come up with an alternative. I think it’s too valuable of a resource to the people to say we don’t have a pool any more,” said Johnson.
Watson expressed concern in asking the people, because Snowflake just had some of its bigger retailers close and people are leaving the community to find jobs.
Jeremy Neff, one of the organizers of the Sweet Tri, which has donated the money raised at the event to the pool, commented that the pool would not have to staff it with two or three fulltime people because they will continue to volunteer. He noted that the Sweet Tri is getting bigger every year and bringing people into the community.
Mayor Willis encouraged putting the $100,000 into repairing the roof.
Camacho agreed, but expressed concern with how long the boiler would last.
Councilwoman Bev Kay expressed concern that the bid was older and from a local company, and she wasn’t sure how low the company could keep it.
“We’ve yet to find a community that this doesn’t bleed,” said Vice Mayor Jason Whiting. He noted that if people want to build this, they think they can sustain a similar budget for at least the two months and then look at maintaining it for longer periods.
There was a brief discussion on taking off the roof and having an outdoor facility, but because of the weather, the council agreed that wasn’t feasible.
Marie Caldwell, who volunteers many hours on behalf of the pool, runs the swim teams and has worked with a committee to raise money for the roof, asked what would happen to the approximately $4,000 they raised.
Watson said that money is there, and is designated for the pool roof.
“What I do love is we’ve got a group of concerned citizens who care about this. I think we create an official committee,” said Whiting. Town staff members would present options that the consultant presented, then work collaboratively on how they send this to the community to get the best results.
Drew Griffith had researched drowning and said that Arizona is number four, but USA swimming says that basic swimming instruction reduces that about 80 percent, stating, “For me it’s a have to. This is a bigger issue than just being able to splash around when I want to.”
A motion to close the pool due to safety and structural concerns passed unanimously.
By Naomi Hatch