Medford pool projects may go to voters

Medford voters may get their say about two new municipal pool complexes — one of which would be indoor and include a fitness center — that could cost a total of $28.5 million to build.

The Medford City Council is meeting in a study session today to discuss plans for replacing the leaking, high-maintenance Hawthorne and Jackson swimming pools that are about 50 years old.

If approved, the two pool-complex projects could be funded in part by a bond that would go to Medford voters November 2008 and be operational by 2010.

The discussion comes nine years after Medford voters opposed a $17.5 million, 20-year bond that would have built a recreation/aquatic center at Hawthorne Park.

The Parks and Recreation Commission considered several options that were part of a report by an aquatic design firm, Counsilman-Hunsaker of Los Angeles. The firm was hired in 2006 to evaluate the city's swimming and leisure pool needs.

The year-round indoor complex would include a 25-meter-by-25-yard swimming pool, a recreational pool with slides and a "lazy river," a fitness area, a two-court gym and locker rooms. The outdoor Jackson pool would have an outdoor leisure pool, a tot pool and seating and shade structures.

The council is also scheduled to talk about whether or not to seek a private party to operate a regional water park. Brian Sjothun, parks and recreation director, said such a park could be built at the existing dog park in the southeast corner of Bear Creek Park. Or the council may decide to put the indoor pool center at the dog park rather than at Hawthorne Park. He said the parks department would find a new home for one or more dog parks in the city.

In 1998, Jim Kusnerik, managing partner for Superior Athletic Clubs, organized a committee to oppose the $17.5 million bond, citing concerns the fitness center component would hurt his business. That concern remains.

"I would fully support an indoor pool, but what they're doing is adding fitness," he said. "That's where I've got the rub."

He said between his club, the Rogue Valley YMCA and America's Best Kids, Medford is not able to provide swim lessons to all the students within the Medford School District.

"There's a definite need for more pool time," he said.

Kusnerik questioned the $24.9 million price tag for the indoor facility.

"That's just a little bit overkill," he said.

Sjothun said the parks department sought input from 500 people who listed basketball courts and exercise facilities as priorities. He added that not everyone can afford to join a health club (costs are typically $25 to $50 per month with enrollment fees extra), and the parks staff is looking for a way to bridge that gap. He said if the council decides to seek a private company to operate the fitness component, Superior Athletic Club could apply for it.

Sjothun said in light of voters recently rejecting the county library levy, there is concern about the success of the parks bond, though the details have not been worked out.

"A final bond amount has not been discussed," he said.

He said if built, both swimming pools would generate revenue from attendance, making it feasible to pay off the debt service.

The Jackson pool would likely be built first, without missing a summer season. The indoor complex would take 18 months to build, he said.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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