There's still time to step up
Monday, February 03, 2014 8:05 AM
With a tip of the hat to The Washington Post, which created this particular format, here are five myths about Portland Pool.
Myth Number 1: A fund-raising campaign for the pool should be launched before the city makes a commitment of funds.
This is the notion that city officials have repeatedly pitched, and it is 100 percent backwards.
Even if there were a firm figure on how much a new pool would cost, how could an effective fund-raising campaign be launched without knowing how much was being committed in public dollars?
Why would any donor — particularly any major donor — make a pledge if the entity that owns the pool — the city — is not willing to make a commitment first?
In countless instances, including the Jay County Public Library, public dollars are committed first, then private donations are sought.
Myth Number 2: The city has no funds to commit to a swimming pool project.
Friday’s analysis of city finances by The CR’s Samm Quinn pretty much demolishes this argument.
Through good stewardship over a number of administrations, the city has built up substantial cash reserves.
By comparison, Jay Schools has a general fund budget of about $25 million and had a year-end balance of about $2 million. The school board would like that to be $3 million, which would be about 15 percent of annual general fund spending.
The city’s general fund, meanwhile, finished the year with more than 45 percent of a year’s spending held in reserve. Total unencumbered funds held in reserve total more than $4.8 million. Those funds aren’t earning very much in the way of interest either. Investing a fraction of them in a new municipal swimming pool would provide a far better return than any bank today.
Myth Number 3: The swimming pool is a “frill” that primarily benefits the community’s elites.
It’s hard to imagine where this idea comes from, but it’s out there.
The reality is nobody relies more on the pool for affordable summer recreation than families with limited income.
Generations of kids whose families didn’t have a lake cottage and couldn’t afford a traveling vacation grew up at Portland Pool. And new generations of kids deserve the same opportunity.
Swimming pools — like parks and libraries — are public resources that provide a payback directly related to how much we use them. And working families know that.
Myth Number 4: A new pool would be more expensive to operate than the current pool.
This one seems to have been created out of thin air.
Right now, the city of Portland is treating something like 1 million gallons of water every summer that then leaks out of the current pool. Surely, the cost of treating 1 million gallons of water has to be factored into the equation. Then there’s the cost of treating the water — before it leaks — with chlorine.
A new pool would use 1 million gallons less water, less chlorine, and would reduce the volume processed at the city water plant.
It’s also safe to assume that a new pool would see a boost in attendance and revenues.
Myth Number 5: City hall is providing leadership on this issue.
You have got to be kidding.
Volunteers worked countless hours studying the question, visiting other pools, reviewing contractors and architects and saving the city tens of thousands of dollars in the process.
That’s where the leadership has come from so far, but it’s not too late for city hall to get on board. — J.R.