Posted on Monday May 18, 2020
These are such trying times for all worldwide, including us here in Colville. The consequences from the COVID virus have had many different effects locally and one of these recently has been the decision by City Council to leave the City pool closed for this season.
First and foremost, I want to clarify that this determination by Council was not made by them alone. It was in concurrence with Department heads and Mayor and yet as they are the financial decision-making body for the City, this choice could only have been made by them. However, I fully support the Council in this tough choice because it was one borne out of financial responsibility and a hedging against financial outcomes in crisis that are not yet clear. I also want you to understand that in my short 5 months in office, I have seen your City Council wrestle with decisions that favor the residents here even when it may not have been entirely practical to do so. They do their very best to most often come down on the side of the citizens and in this case, I fully support them in a decision that they truly didn’t want to make. That said, what follows are the reasons that we chose to not open the pool facility for this summer.
In any given year, it takes roughly two months of preparation, cleaning, filling, balancing and heating the pool and its water for it to be ready for public use. It holds approximately 300,000 gallons of water and so it takes time to complete these tasks and in each season, the costs to open it are about the same. Also, this statement omits the time and cost of hiring staff and getting them trained as well. Once completed, the facility can usually operate at a semi-predictable cost per month unless there is an equipment failure or an unusually cold, wet summer. Most of you understand that our pool operates yearly at a financial loss and always has, but such is the nature of a seasonal facility that has operational and maintenance needs all year long. So in the end, it’s a matter of timing with regard to this facility. Do we choose to open it for just a few weeks when the cost to prep and open it is about the same as for three months of normal use? What if we choose to prepare it for opening only to remain in Phase 2 where we cannot legally open it to the public? Tough questions abound.
In this C-19/Phase 2 environment that we are currently find ourselves operating within, the unknowns of budgetary impacts have created hard decisions. As you know, many businesses have been closed, employment lay-offs are far above normal and these are important details to all of us in our financial planning. Your family may choose to not buy the new RV that you have been saving for and the City must consider all methods of cost reductions for the same reasons. The risks of what could come outweigh some of optional services that the City would normally provide. I deeply dislike this and so does Council, but neither of us has the power to change what is. City leadership does consistently recognize our responsibilities to you that live here in the forms of providing drinking water, maintenance of our streets and snow plowing, effective and compliant operation of our wastewater treatment facility, effective police and fire services and so on. To us, these are absolutes that we cannot allow to be financially compromised and to that end, the decision to close the pool was not made in a vacuum nor one that any of us desired.