Friday, September 22, 2006

Public weighs in on future of Hailey pool

Rec District explores enclosing, expanding swimming facility

Express Staff Writer

Keith Perry, a former Blaine County Recreation District board member, weighs in on a proposal to enclose the district's public swimming pool to allow year-round use. Photo by David N. Seelig

A new six-lane lap pool, a children's splash pool and year-round swimming could be in the future for the Blaine County Aquatic Center in Hailey.

"We want to revitalize an old effort, see if we can't get things moving again," said Wally Morgus, Blaine County Recreation District executive director.

The Blaine County Recreation District invited the public Tuesday, Sept. 19, to discuss future improvements and expansion possibilities for the public outdoor pool. The district wants to identify the needs of the community in relation to the facility located near Wood River High School.

Nearly 50 people attended the town hall-style meeting to brainstorm important aspects of a new or renovated aquatic center.

Those at the meeting included lap swimmers, many of whom were displaced by the closure of Sun Valley Athletic Club in Ketchum. The swimmers pushed for a six-lane, regulation, covered lap pool.

Parents called for a children's splash pool.

Most in attendance agreed that covering the Aquatic Center for year-round use is paramount for the south valley community. Putting a roof over the pool has long been in the district's plans.

Built in 1985, the pool's original plans called to enclose the facility at a future date. Unanticipated construction and operation costs sidelined immediate enclosure plans. In addition, development of the Wood River Trails system—managed by the district—also placed the enclosure of the pool further on the back burner.

In 1999, the Rec District proposed improving the aquatic center through a ballot question brought to the public. The ballot question proposed an $11.8 million bond for improvements to recreation facilities, including the Hailey pool. The bond was to fund a year-round enclosed pool, in addition to a pool in Ketchum, a mid-valley sports field, park improvements, and a community recreation center in Hailey.

Voters defeated the bond proposal.

Again, in 2002, the district set forth a desire for pool improvements as stated in its 10-year recreation facility plan. The plan calls to enhance, expand and cover the aquatic center.

Such improvements could be funded through a bond, levy or private donations.

Morgus said an $8 million facility, funded by a two-year levy as provided by Idaho statute, would cost residents $33.90 per $100,000 of assessed value. Under such a scenario, a house assessed at $400,000 would require a $135 payment per year.

Although no concrete plans are in place, the district has established a committee to set priorities and explore funding options for the aquatic center.

"You have a commitment from the district to keep the process moving along," Morgus said.

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