Sunday, 17 January 2021

Blackfoot City Council votes to have third pool bond on the ballot


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The Blackfoot City Pool. Natalia Hepworth,

BLACKFOOT — Third time’s the charm for the Blackfoot city Pool – at least that’s what the majority of the City Council is hoping for as they’ve voted to put another bond on the ballot.

“It’s not going to be as extensive of a remodel as what was going to be,” City Councilman Chris Jensen said. “I’m glad that the council members feel like we need to give this one more try.”

In 2017, a $5 million dollar bond was on the ballot twice – once in May and the other November. The bond failed both times. In May it failed to reach the supermajority (66.7 percent) by 15 votes. In November the bond needed 66.7 percent to pass and received just 61.15 percent. 1,163 votes were in favor and 739 people voted against the bond.

In June, the city council proposed a $1.9 million “no frills” bond that would go toward fixing maintenance and structural issues the pool is facing. The city council decided the revisit the issue July 17.

Last week the council scrapped the $1.9 million and ended up voting 3-1 to have a $3.7 million bond on the ballot.

“It’ll bring the building back to ‘like-new’ condition. It’ll upgrade existing but it won’t add new features,” Jensen said.

Jensen, who’s an advocate for the 45-year-old pool, said if Blackfoot loses this facility, it’s unlikely it’ll get another one.

“It was really the first enclosed pool in the area and it is used a lot,” Jensen said.

He said to build a new pool would cost about $10 million – around three times more than the amount of the repair costs. Jensen said if people aren’t willing to repair what they’ve got, he doubts they’ll be willing to put in the funds to do a full upgrade at a later time.

Badly damaged insulation from the Blackfoot pool | Natalia Hepworth,

He said he’s seen a lot of scouts, swimmers, and older patrons in the community utilize the facility. Jensen said it’s also an asset to the city for prospective businesses as they see there are recreational facilities for the citizens.

City Councilwoman Jan Simpson feels the city is better off without the pool, especially because of the state of the town’s budget. She was the only one who voted against the $3.7 million bond.

“I just don’t feel like we need to be putting a third-time bond out for the people if they’ve already denied it twice,” Simpson said.

In a November 2017 story, Jensen said the first bond would have included a splash pad for kids, new insulation, new windows, renovated locker rooms, a new concrete pool with five lanes suitable for swim meets, and a zero-entry feature helpful for people with disabilities or who are in wheelchairs.

Simpson said the lowered bond wouldn’t include any provisions for heat conservation in the winter, or remodeling of the front entrance, bathroom and changing rooms.

“I think the pool needs to be closed. Even if the bond passed the $3.7 million, we don’t really have money in the budget to maintain the pool properly,” Simpson said.

She said pools typically don’t pay for themselves and feels like the city has subsidized it too much with an annual $200,000 subsidy. The pools budget, however, has been cut by $43,000 for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We just don’t have the money to put into a dying facility,” Simpson said. “It won’t even go to the ballot until May.”

She said the city will have to worry about keeping the pool open for the time being as the city council also approved the pool to be funded until September 2019. The $3.7 million bond goes to the ballot in May 2019.


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