Over the years, as the Crookston School District and City of Crookston have had an arrangement in place that has each entity putting up identical amounts of money each year to cover the operating budget deficit at the Crookston Swimming Pool, things have always been respectful and cordial.
That didn't change this week, either, when Crookston School District Superintendent Chris Bates spoke to the Crookston City Council at their Monday meeting about the predicament the school district is in, regarding the pool that's in need of a new roof, boiler, and ventilation/dehumidification system. But it continues to be clear that school district leaders, Bates and school board members among them, wish they didn't own the pool, and that city leaders are glad they don't own it.
Bates addressed the council during the public forum that kick-starts each meeting. With the school board working closely with performance contractor Johnson Controls on a comprehensive package including major repair, maintenance and improvement projects at the three school buildings and the pool, he tried to explain to the council why the pool-specific operating levy referendum in place for two years, with eight years left, isn't going to provide nearly enough revenue for the major fixes the pool still needs.
The new lights and tiles have brightened the place up and the pool interior looks great, Bates said. But the $100 per-pupil in funding coming in each year because of the successful ballot question, resulting in around $150,000 each year of the 10 years to go toward the pool operating budget and repair projects, is around $130 per-pupil short, he added.
Board members who were on the board when the pool question was put on the ballot have said that board members decided against asking for a big chunk of pool-specific money because they didn't know the public's level of support for the pool and they didn't want to jeopardize the other ballot question that brings in around $1 million in general education revenue each year.
Bates, who wasn't on the job during the last referendum process, said he's dealing with the hand he's been dealt. And at the pool, he said, the district is dealing with around $1.6 million in desperately needed projects. "It's not necessarily upgrades, but just to get the building back to a functional level," Bates said.
At Large Council Member Wayne Melbye asked Bates several questions about the pool situation in general, then said, "A lot of this, to me, has been very badly represented."
Bates said he figures the previous thinking was that the $100 PPU referendum would "keep the wolves from the door."
"You're trying to go back to the well again, and you haven't even taken the first scoop out yet," Melbye responded, adding that no one has apparently formulated any type of business plan for the pool.
Page 2 of 2 - Fellow At Large Council Member Bob Quanrud voiced similar concerns. "This seems like this is stuff you should have gone through before there was a referendum on this," he said. "You're barely a year into this and already you're looking at going back to the voters for more."
Bates replied by saying that educators aren't business-people. "But I've got a dollar in my pocket that I will give to anyone to take the pool and show us how to run it," he said.