No one will argue that exciting things are happening at the Crookston Swimming Pool, in the form of new tile on the pool floors and walls and LED lights that will be much brighter and much more energy efficient. The current projects – set to wrap up over the next couple weeks with a pool re-opening targeted for sometime in June – are being financed by a pool-specific ballot question approved by school district voters a couple years ago that each year for the next eight years or so will bring in $150,000 to be spent solely on the pool.
The trouble is, by far the most expensive project, but the one that's arguably the most needed yet probably not as exciting and noticeable as new tiles and lights, still hasn't been addressed. It's the pool's roof, which needs to be replaced. Even going by conservative estimates, if money from the successful referendum was applied to a new roof, it would eat up several years worth of voter-approved pool revenue.
So School District Superintendent Chris Bates, at a special Crookston School Board meeting Tuesday morning at the high school, said he continues to look into ways to finance a new roof for the pool that "may not involve voting on a new tax for property owners." The next step is to put some hard numbers together for the project, he continued, with the goal of having a new roof in place by around this time next year.
As it often does, talk of spending a lot of money at the pool draws the ire of some board members who aren't fans of the school district owning the facility in the first place. "The disgusting thing is, show me another city where the school is in charge of public amenities," board member Robin Brekken said.
The current arrangement has the City of Crookston and school district each year coming up with an equal amount to cover the operational costs at the pool. Over the past couple of years, each entity has allocated approximately $68,000 to erase the operational deficit at the facility. Recently, Bates and school district Business Manager Laura Lyczewski pitched a more formal, long-term operational-costs agreement with the city that would include annual, built-in increases paid by the city. Last week, at a city council Ways & Means Committee meeting, council members balked at the proposal, saying they'd prefer to keep the current arrangement.
So would a new roof constitute an operational cost? That's one thing Bates said needs to be hashed out. "Would that be split with the city? I don't know," he said. "With the tile project the whole referendum is gone. I don't think anybody thought about the roof."
Page 2 of 2 - But, according to facility consultants who recently inspected the pool and the condition of the three public school buildings, the high school roof needs major work as well. "The roof (at CHS) is deteriorating as well," board chair Frank Fee said. "It would be nice to have everything repaired."
Or is the pool deck more pressing?
The work currently underway at the pool will likely frustrate many pool users when they walk into the facility next month and notice that the pool deck itself doesn't look any different than it did before. A product to clean 35 years of build-up on the deck simply could not be found, Lyczewski said at Tuesday's meeting. "The contractor said new tile was needed (on the deck). That isn't going to happen," she said. "It is still going to look bad when people walk in."
Steamatic quoted a $25,000 price to clean the deck, Bates added. "They tried for 15 minutes and gave up," he said. "They said if we had used a scrubber twice a week on the tile since it was new, it wouldn't be a problem now." But, Bates added, "We can't have kids operating that kind of machinery."
Asked by board member Keith Bakken what the top priority at the pool is, the deck or the roof, Bates said it's probably the deck. "People want health and safety," Bates said. "We can levy for this and people will respond, but we have to be careful not to do too much."