BANDON – The mayor and City Council believe it is in the best interests of the city not to risk the possibility of spending public funds for the maintenance and operation of a swimming pool if the responsible private entity were not able to sustain those costs.
That's what Measure 6-172, which appears on the Nov. 6 ballot, is about. If the referral measure passes, it will change the Bandon Municipal Code to require voter approval for any expenditure of public funds for the operation or maintenance of a public or private swimming pool in city limits.
Whether or not the measure passes, the city and Urban Renewal Agency would still be able to apply for and provide matching funds for capital and construction grants to help get the swimming pool built.
But if voters say "yes," and the measure passes, the city would never be on the hook to pay to keep the pool maintained, once it has been built.
However, there has been some confusion over the measure. If voters say "yes" does that mean the city will allow a pool in City Park?
Those two issues are separate, according to Mayor Mary Schamehorn, who has been advocating for a "yes" vote by the public on Measure 6-172.
"All the ballot measure really means is that a “yes” vote will protect the council, and eventual councilors, from having pressure put on us to save the pool," Schamehorn said. "That is, to pay to continue operating and maintaining it if it fails to generate enough income from fees and grants to keep it open."
Even if the ballot measure fails, the City Council could pass a resolution saying the same thing, but it doesn’t carry the weight that an amendment to the charter would, Schamehorn explained.
Since any change to the city’s charter requires a vote of the people, the City Council was hoping to put forth the charter amendment to calm people's fears that the city would ever end up being financially responsible for the pool.
That charter amendment would hold true wherever the pool is built ... when and if it is built.
Confusing matters even more is the announcement earlier this year of a $2.5 million bequest by an anonymous donor to the Bandon Aquatic Center, stipulating that the bequest is contingent on the facility being located in the Bandon City Park. When those funds are received, once the pool is built, they are expected to be kept in reserve for unexpected maintenance or repair costs.
That has a growing group of residents who live surrounding the City Park concerned. They have been meeting to provide a united front to let the city know they don't want the pool in the park, under any circumstance.
"Some living close to the park believe it would bring a great deal of traffic, noise, unnatural lighting, general congestion, remove long-standing trees and change the peace of the neighborhoods around the park and indeed change forever the open natural feel of the park," said Donna Misseres in a letter to the editor.
Robert Graham, who lives on Jackson Avenue adjacent to City Park, is also concerned about traffic, safety and noise among other issues he believes will come with a pool. Graham says he's not against a pool, just having one located in City Park.
Graham said he and others are upset over not being able to have a voice at City Council meetings on the topic. Several people attended the Oct. 4 meeting because they believed the issue was on the agenda. The topic of the pool location was listed in a staff report on the council's consent agenda, but was not an items requiring action or discussion. Schamehorn said the issue of the location of the pool will likely be on the December agenda for discussion.
Meanwhile, city officials have been working to see if the location contingency for the $2.5 million bequest can be met. Parks and Recreation Commission members, along with city planners, have made recent site visits to City Park as part of an overall review of siting for park activities. They have identified a few possible locations for a pool, but have not yet presented their findings and recommendations to the City Council.
Aquatic Center board members are not daunted by the task of building a swimming pool for South Coast residents, and maintain they have no intention of using public funds for ongoing maintenance and operation.
Instead, those fees will be paid for by users in the form of annual memberships. The board has been raising money to get the swimming pool built and are confident they can do so without asking for a bond measure or tax levy.
"A pool in a community is always considered a community asset by many, and even if it were across town near the old quonset hut, people would still expect the city to bail them out if it fails," Schamehorn said. "And that is the reason for the charter amendment."
"I am sorry for the confusion this has generated," she added. "A yes vote will lock into the charter the prohibition of spending money to operate and maintain a pool."