The following article was written and published for the Bandon Western World Newspaper. It appeared in print on 2/28/18.
By Amy Moss-Strong
BANDON – There have been questions lately in the community and on social media regarding the Bandon Aquatic Center.
The concept of locating the proposed swimming pool on property in Bandon City Park was the topic of a work session at the Planning Commission in late January. At that meeting, several people spoke in support of the idea, while others, including Mayor Mary Schamehorn, said that while the City Council does support the idea of a community swimming pool, it does not support the idea of using city property for such an endeavor.
At a subsequent City Council meeting, Schamehorn put the swimming pool item on the agenda so the council could give City Manager Robert Mawson direction. The motion, which passed 5-1 (Councilor Peter Braun opposed), stated that the swimming pool would not be allowed to be located in City Park and that the city will not enter into any kind of public-private partnership with the Bandon Swimming Pool Committee, a nonprofit organization.
“In guiding the motion, I also suggested that we continue to work with the swimming pool committee in any way we can, and also suggested that before a swimming pool could possibly pay for itself, the people of the area would have to approve a taxing district or, at the very least, submit a charter amendment to prohibit city money from going to the pool,” Schamehorn wrote after the meeting. “That would allow us to support their efforts, but not financially and it would not indebt property taxes.”
Schamehorn said she would love to have a pool and has pledged $5,000 of her own money, as has Councilor Madeline Seymour.
“But we cannot support something that the voters have already turned down … and has such a high probability of failing,” Schamehorn said. (The board put an initiative on the ballot in November 2012 to form a recreation district, which failed by almost two-thirds majority.)
“Our first obligation must be to the taxpayers of Bandon,” Schamehorn said. “Swimming pools across the country are closing, unless there is a taxing district to support the operation and maintenance.”
The swimming pool committee was seeking support from the city in the form of urban renewal funds for infrastructure. The swimming pool board owns a 10-acre lot adjacent to the southern boundary of City Park but outside the city’s urban renewal district.
The pool will require about 40 percent of that property, according to board member Ann King, leaving 60 percent to be sold. The property has some access, wetlands and drainage issues. The board has been advised that before selling it, it must plan for and cover the costs of infrastructure to support housing development on the portion to be sold.
“Developing it is cost-prohibitive,” King said. “Discussions with the city manager and Planning Department led to asking the City Planning Commission for their ideas about the possibility of locating the pool within the City Park.”
Mawson met with the swimming pool committee members a few times, trying to find a solution that would work. That’s where the idea came about of possibly locating the pool on city property in the park.
Now, with that no longer an option, the swimming pool committee is looking at ways to develop the property they already purchased.
Plans were developed for the school property on 11th Street that was previously being leased by the Swimming Pool Committee for $1 a year as the potential site for the pool. Plans were revised once the 10-acre property was purchased. Construction plans will not be solicited until a final location is determined.
The committee wants the public to know that they do not intend to ask for tax money for the pool and instead plan to build it with donations and grant money and will maintain it via a membership fee charged to users.
The plan is for a 100,000 square-foot building with solar and city electric utilities and water, recycled through state-of-the-art filtration. Pool users would come from Bandon, Coquille and Port Orford and the surrounding areas, which is estimated at approximately 9,000 people. The budget, business plan and feasibility study commissioned by the committee demonstrate that $250,000 per year can be generated through fees, swim meets, Red Cross lessons, daily passes from tourists, concessions, and donations to the 501c-3, pool committee members said.
“Since the Planning Commission meeting, renewed interest in the pool has seen pledge amounts rise and increased interest of people to work on the board,” King said. “Mayor Schamehorn has raised her pledge to $5,000 and has challenged others in town to match her.”
The Bandon Swimming Pool Committee wants to be open with the public regarding income and expenditures. Though several efforts have been undertaken in Bandon to build a community swimming pool, this current effort began about 10 years ago, when the committee was formed and the board applied for nonprofit status.
The current finances of the Bandon Swimming Pool Committee are listed below. There is a $4,000 discrepancy, which, King said, “Has accumulated over the years because the workers have been more zealous in their fundraising and land maintenance than in their record keeping.”
Donations – $422,000
Fundraising events – $102,000
Misc., including interest – $56,000
Donation boxes – $15,000
Total Income – $595,000
Misc., including taxes, admin – $37,000
Land, including purchase, maintenance, surveys – $233,000
Insurance – $22,000
Architect, including school and new property – $79,500
Fundraising – $20,000
Total Expenses – $391,500
On hand/invested – $200,011
The Swimming Pool Committee meets at 10:30 a.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at the Bandon Public Library Sprague Room and the public is welcome and encouraged to attend. For more information about the group and their efforts, visit bandonpool.com or their Facebook page.