The message during a Feb. 22 meeting to the Philomath School Board was clear. Clemens Community Pool needs to continue to serve schoolchildren and residents, an amenity that's been in place since Dec. 26, 1960.
In mid-February, a pool advisory committee met for the first time and everyone in the room agreed that there needs to be a way to keep it going.
"I think it's a community of people who have felt their lives dramatically impacted by swimming in the Clemens pool and want to continue to have that opportunity paid forward within our community," said Melissa Goff, superintendent of schools. "It's a really great group of folks who feel strongly about it."
But the pool has fallen on hard times and several upgrades and repairs are needed. Talking to the school board, maintenance director Joey DiGiovannangelo used spreadsheets to illustrate the financial impact of doing everything at once, a list that comes in at $474,700. A 20-year maintenance plan would follow up, an amount estimated at $3,500 to $4,500 per year.
"That's to get all the major projects done to get the pool running at optimum level," DiGiovannangelo said. "That's to get the pool boiler installed, change out the pool filters to a high-pressure sand filtration system, which Ellen (Luke, pool supervisor) is insistent that we do and the Benton County Health Department has agreed that is a must. It's things like that those are large ticket items. There are several large-ticket items on there."
A couple of months ago, the district looked at a long-range operation and maintenance plan with big-ticket items phased in, but that approach would cost more in the end.
"If the board wants us as a district to look toward a one-year or two-year upgrade timeline, then Joey, Ellen and I would be tasked with going back and figuring out where would those dollars come from and we'd be looking at large grant dollars to make that happen," Goff said. "The other option that you've already seen is the 20-year pool plan, which costs a bit of money in the long run, more money because things are breaking down because they haven't been fixed."
So the board was presented with two options: Fix it all at once or phase it in over 10 to 12 years.
Board member Greg Gerding was the first to voice his approval for getting the project done all at once.
"Go ahead and see what you can do in finding the $475,000, let's move forward, do it all at once ... Why would we want to go piecemeal for 10 to 20 years, that's ludicrous," Gerding said.
Gerding mentioned various avenues that could be tried to obtain grants, including the Clemens Foundation, the city of Philomath and Benton County.
"Let's don't forget this is a community pool. ... We serve a large area of the county in terms of swim lessons, health and recreation, and we can approach lots of people and organizations for funds here," he said. "Granted, we assume we will undoubtedly have to fund that to some extent, but we shouldn't carry everything on our own backs. I for one don't think it's advisable to stretch this thing out."
Among the rest of the board, there seemed to be a consensus that an all-at-once approach should be considered, although Shelley Niemann stressed the importance of seeking out grant opportunities before jumping in with a final decision and Jim Kildea said perhaps there could be a "Phase 1, Phase 2, but not Phase 8, Phase 9."
Niemann asked DiGiovannangelo if he could identify any priorities on the projects list.
"These are the priorities really," he said. "I don't know if there's anything that we can take out of here. We kept it as tight as we could, really."
The upgrades and repairs are expected to sustain the pool for eight to 10 years, enough time to give some thought on future plans.
As for a shutdown, no matter what route the district takes, closing the pool for a period of time will be necessary.
"There would be shutdown time for sure," DiGiovannangelo said. "It would be shorter in the long run to just do it all at once, get everything lined up, contractor ready, all our ducks in a row, the whole plan ready to go and shut it down for three months, could be longer."
DiGiovannangelo then added, "If we do it for two weeks here, three weeks there for these big projects, it could be spread out ... it could take way longer."
Goff said an annual shutdown of the pool for about two weeks is needed to drain it and paint the bottom.
DiGiovannangelo said a plumbing infrastructure replacement was recently completed to help combat a water temperature control issue. A damaged curb in the spectator area was also repaired to cover up exposed rebar.
The original construction on the pool back in 1960 carried a price tag of $106,000. Rex and Ethel Clemens donated the money as a gift to the community behind a philosophy that every child in Philomath should know how to swim.