Vote set May 16 on $5 million bond for Blackfoot pool

Doug Lindley/Idaho State Journal  Jeanette Spears, manager of the Blackfoot Swimming Pool, hopes that voters approve a bond on May 16 to repair and upgrade the 44-year-old city pool.

Doug Lindley/Idaho State Journal
Jeanette Spears, manager of the Blackfoot Swimming Pool, hopes that voters approve a bond on May 16 to repair and upgrade the 44-year-old city pool.

By Kendra Evensen, kevensen@journalnet.com 

BLACKFOOT — Blackfoot voters will soon decide if they are willing to pay for renovations aimed at improving and extending the life of the local indoor pool.

The city of Blackfoot is asking the public for a $5 million bond during a vote on May 16. For those who won’t be available that day, early voting is taking place at the Bingham County Courthouse through May 12. And absentee ballots can be requested until Friday, according to city officials. For more information, people can call 782-3164.

City officials say the Blackfoot Swimming Pool — one of the few indoor public pools in Southeast Idaho — is currently 44 years old. The pool that opened in 1973 was designed to last between 30 and 40 years.

“It has lived the design life cycle,” said Mayor Paul Loomis.

He says the bond would allow them to make needed mechanical, electrical and structural improvements recommended by design professionals, and add features for children.

Loomis said they’ve been putting Band-Aids on the structure for years, but they’re eventually going to have to make needed repairs or close the facility.

“Is there a critical flaw today? No, there is not. (You can) go to our pool, be safe and have a good experience,” said Loomis.

But he adds that the pool is no longer efficient, which results in high operational costs. And it’s not aesthetically pleasing.

Many citizens seem to agree.

In a survey conducted by a local interest group, more than 40 percent of the 420 who responded said they were “somewhat not satisfied” with the condition of the facility and nearly 34 percent were “extremely not satisfied.”

When asked what they would change about the pool, many mentioned the poor condition and looks of the ceiling, and the fact that water drips down from above while people are swimming, according to the survey. Others expressed a desire to improve ventilation and add features for children.

Blackfoot officials say that if the bond were approved, $3.7 million would go toward repairing deficiencies at the pool. And about $1.3 million would be used to add more features, like an area for toddlers, and waterfalls and fountains for children.

“Our intent is to make it more family friendly,” Loomis said.

The city also wants to reconfigure the pool shape for lane efficiency.

The 20-year bond would cost $50.15 per year on a $100,000 home, after the $50,000 homeowner’s exemption, and $250.75 for a $250,000 business.

If the bond does not pass, Loomis said they will look into other options. They could make more minor repairs to stretch the life of the pool for as long as possible. Or they could tear it down and replace it with a seasonal pool or another recreational facility.

“The City Council would have some difficult decisions to make,” Loomis said.

The pool drew 34,894 visitors last year, and 276 children participated in swimming lessons there, according to city officials.

Loomis said he personally swims at the pool three days a week. Still, he wants the public to decide whether or not they want to continue investing in the pool. Ultimately, he said he is willing to tear it down if that’s what citizens decide they want the city to do.

“It’s been a journey to get to this point. Now we have to make the hard decisions,” he said.

The city has posted more information about the bond and proposed changes on its website, www.cityofblackfoot.org.

Two informational events are also planned. The city will hold an open house at the local senior center from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on May 10. And the Bingham GOP is sponsoring a public forum at the same location at noon on May 11.