A New Pool for Big Sandy - The Reboot
July 1, 2020
In 2017, a joint project between the City of Big Sandy and Big Sandy Public Schools presented a bond proposal to the voters to build a new pool for the residents of Big Sandy. Proponents and opponents of the bond issue seemed to agree that a new pool for our community would be beneficial, but how to pay for the project became the sticking point that kept the project from moving forward. The proposed pool project came with a $2.1 million price tag, which proved to be more than the voters were willing to pay. The bond election failed, leaving the city to face the reality that the existing pool would have to suffice for the time.
The current city pool has proved its benefit to the community, particularly this year, as many facilities in the area have been late to open or have remained closed due to the pandemic. The pool has filled to its 75% of maximum capacity several times this summer, often with visitors from surrounding communities who come to our pool to enjoy the use of the splash park, the pool itself, or relax on the deck underneath the sun shades. Swim lessons have been very popular again this summer, as has the adult open swim. The Big Sandy Swim Team signed up 36 swimmers, despite the pandemic canceling the majority of competition opportunities this summer.
Despite its popularity, the pool itself has suffered structural issues that, while some have been corrected, present the real possibility that the swimming in Big Sandy may come to an end sooner rather than later. The most significant issues currently facing the pool are the liner's age, water flow rate, and the pool house itself. The liner was installed early in the 2000s as a remedy for the cracks in the cement underneath. The project, funded largely by grants, provided a band-aid for the leaking pool. The liner has worked well, but it was a temporary fix for a more significant problem. It has started to show signs of wear and may realistically only serve its purpose for another few years. Another issue for the pool was the flow-rate of the water required to ensure that the water is being filtered often enough to keep the pool water clean. This issue was addressed this past spring and is reported to have been corrected. The pool house shows its age, with peeling paint and low spots in portions of the floor that accumulate water and dirt. The current pool manager, Leslie Gregory, and a staff of lifeguards work hard at keeping the building clean, but it remains a challenge.
Recently, a group of community members came together in casual conversation to discuss the future of the pool. This led to the formation of a committee that has begun work exploring the possibility of a renewed effort to fund the building of a new pool for our community. The committee currently consists of city council member Rich Jespersen, Mayor Shaud Schwarzbach, and community members Diana LaBuda, Heather Pleninger, Lorrie Merrill, Travis Baumann, Diana Keane, and Melanie Schwarzbach. The group is not exclusive and welcomes anyone interested in further in this project.
The committee identified key goals for moving forward. These include scaling back the previous pool project to a more affordable undertaking, reaffirming relationships between the city and the school, identifying sources of grant funding, and promoting the project in the community.
The pool project has been revisited at two recent school board meetings. The first meeting brought familiar opponents of the project out of the woodwork, who again expressed their willingness to see a pool built in our community, but their desire to keep the funding off the tax rolls. The second meeting involved a discussion as to the status of the agreement between the city and the school if a pool were to be built. The board of trustees reaffirmed their willingness to work with the city in regards to providing a suitable building location if funds can be raised to begin construction.
Councilman Rich Jespersen recently met with Rachel Ghekiere, who was instrumental in the fundraising for the Chester community pool. Jespersen presented information to the new pool committee on how the Chester community raised funds to build their pool in 2008. Fundraising took nearly eight years.
The new pool committee will be working with the Big Sandy City Council and Bear Paw Development to pursue grant funding opportunities. A Go Fund Me site will be created to garner support beyond our local community. The committee met with the city council at a special board meeting on Monday evening to explore next steps.
If you are interested in serving on the committee or supporting the project, please reach out to any committee member.