By Naomi Hatch
Members of the Snowflake Town Council discussed the desire of many residents to save the community’s swimming pool at their meeting last week, but have not found a way to finance the project.
“Due to the safety concerns and health issues we feel are important at the existing pool facility, we made the decision to close the pool,” Snowflake Town Manager Paul Watson said in reference to approval of a motion that followed a discussion of the pool at the previous council meeting.
“I had meetings with three to four individuals and small groups, all with interest in trying to keep the pool operating if at all possible,” said Watson, noting they have been good meetings and he has been very receptive to looking at some of the options presented. “There have been some concepts presented, but nothing at this point that we think is viable in keeping the pool operating, but it can be pursued further.”
Watson was slated to meet with an expert on building issues with the intention of getting a better idea of what can be done.
Drew Griffin has held the Sweet Triathlon for several years and is working with others to keep the pool open. “From my perspective, I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed with the desires, the intentions and the support from the community,” he said.
Two weeks after the Jan. 14 council meeting, pool supporters put up a Facebook page, SaveOurPoolSnowflake, which received 400 likes in 48 hours, as well as many suggestions. They had a booth at the groundhog breakfast with petitions for people to sign. “It seems nearly everybody that came in wanted to support what we’re doing,” said Griffin. People offered to help in many ways, including buying a beam for the pool.
Griffin said it would be easy to focus on how big a deal this is and be discouraged, but he encouraged everyone to set that aside and focus on how viable an asset the pool is, noting this is not just a local issue, since 2008 there have been a number of pools with the same problems.
He noted that there is a Build a Pool Conference, and he has been in contact with organizers who are holding a seminar this month in Austin, Texas. “One of the ideas is that if pools are programmed as they have been for the last 40 years they will not be profitable, but there are ways to program them in communities our size with the resources we have and make them sustainable,” said Griffin. “We intend to learn all we can to make them better.”
Griffin said that because this is an issue that so many people are committed to, they intend to demonstrate to the council over time that people are committed.
He asked each council member to respond to the pool’s worth to them in dollars to invest in the pool as a resource in the community. He later clarified that, asking them, “What do you think the town can do debt wise? Are you willing to invest in the pool that way?”
Councilman Kerry Ballard said he loves the pool and thought it was a great asset for the community. “I’m kind of partial to see what we can do about a bond,” he said. “I’d be willing to pay a little extra on property tax.”
Councilman Lynn Johnson, an advocate for the pool, said, “It’s a lot more difficult than that. We have multiple departments that need x amount of dollars and it (the pool) is not sustainable…The upkeep of the pool has not been to a standard, and we’ve sustained a huge amount of use on that without sustaining it.
“The amount of money that would be needed to renovate or fix it is way beyond the scope of this town budget, he continued, noting that he is not willing to say as a council member, “We’ll pledge $30,000,” because it might affect other departments.
“I was a big advocate in pushing for a bond,” said Johnson. “You say that’s a valuable commodity to the people, I say let’s take it to the people.”
“I’d love to say we have the money to spend, but we don’t,” said Councilman Stuart Hensley, noting their priority is water, sewer, roads and emergency services. “Sadly, there isn’t a huge emergency fund waiting for something to be used for.”
Councilman Tom Poscharsky agreed with Johnson and Hensley, stating, “I just don’t see where we are today we could begin to do it.” He then talked of Watson’s concept of a heritage park between Snowflake and Taylor, noting, “If we’re going to do this, we can’t do it as Snowflake. We need to have Taylor involved, the school involved, we need to have others involved. We just economically cannot do a pool.”
Vice Mayor Jason Whiting, who has been involved in many of the meetings regarding the pool, said this is one of the most difficult things the council has faced.
He recognized that for future development the pool would be an asset that would bring people to the community, noting, “I recognize all those things and certainly for me it’s not a dead topic…There’s a liability issue we have to address, but for me it’s not dead.
“I hate to say, no we just don’t have the money, and that’s true, we don’t, but I think we have to sit down creatively,” said Whiting who suggested looking at solutions together, as a community.
Whiting said he is not opposed to the bond, noting, “It’s really rubbed me wrong when you go to the people and they say no, and they go ahead and do it anyway. You’ve got to have sound solutions.”
Councilwoman Bev Kay said she agreed with all five council members and stated, “I have faith in the community.” She talked about seeing the community raise barns and knows that they can do that, but said she felt the timing might be wrong. Kay pointed out that last month Snowflake lost three businesses and those tax dollars were helping to pay for Snowflake’s employees and services. Kay said she would like to see a new pool and a community center.
Mayor Kelly Willis talked about the retreat the council recently held, stating, “We talked over the many situations we have and the number one thing that the council came up with is that we have to, before we can fill our dreams, our hopes, our desires, our needs and our wants, we have to grow our economy…Sometimes in a community our size, sometimes we have to be patient.”
The mayor noted that Navajo and Apache counties are the two poorest in the state and among the poorest in the country.
“I want to finish a project, we’ve got to focus on a project, get it done and move on to the next one. We can’t have five, six, seven projects facing us in a line,” said the mayor.
“The town of Snowflake is a wonderful and beautiful community, but we have lost much of our revenue, our income revenue,” said the mayor. He went on to say that when residents pay their property taxes, none of it goes to Snowflake.
Griffin noted that there are more people on their survey that are willing to give to the pool that are willing to be taxed for it.
By Naomi Hatch