The Daniel Meyer pool in Ashland. [Mail Tribune / Andy Atkinson]

No clear lane forward for Ashland pool

ASHLAND — The 34-year-old Daniel Meyer pool is falling apart, the city's parks director says.

Build in 1983 in Hunter Park on Homes Avenue, Daniel Meyer pool has served generations of Ashlanders every summer since, offering lap swim, rec swim, water fitness classes and swim lessons. In 2015, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted to open the pool in the winter to serve high school competitive swim teams after Southern Oregon University (SOU) drained its pool and demolished the gym it was in.

Now the pool is falling apart, Parks Director Michael Black told the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission last week. Parts of the pool’s equipment and machinery need replacement multiple times every year. Most recently, the pool was closed for almost a month because of a malfunctioning pump.

“Daniel Meyer needs renovation right now. It’s getting worse and worse every year,” Black said. “We tried, but you can only patch things up so many times before you have to replace it all together.”

But it hasn’t been easy, Black said.

The parks department is starting to exhaust its options for renovating and expanding Daniel Meyer pool after SOU, the YMCA and the Ashland School District had all turned down APRC’s offer to revive a pool. At a joint meeting with the City Council in May, the Parks and Recreation Commission said it was committed to come up with a plan for the renovation. Still, “there isn’t a clear path for it right now,” Black said.

The most current plan is to expand Daniel Meyer pool into “an adequate facility that would provide for both recreation and competitive swimming” that's open year round. The 8-foot deep pool would accommodate eight lanes for swimmers. It would also have a cover, similar to one over the Lithia Park ice rink, to keep it warm through the winter.

The construction cost is estimated at $3.5 million — the cover alone would cost up to $600,000. That's scaled back from the initial plan to rebuild the pool from scratch, which would cost between $7.5 to $10 million.

The new pool would also raise the annual operational cost from $160,000 to $306,000 — a big hurdle to get through, Black said.

“Obviously we don’t have the money to do it ,” Black said.

One plan, Black said, would be to piggyback on a school bond with Ashland and Phoenix/Talent School District on the ballot in November next year to cover the construction costs. The Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission (APRC) will also ask the two school districts to contribute to the increased operational bill.

APRC and the Ashland School District Board have scheduled a joint meeting on Jan. 29 at the Council Chambers, 1175 East Main St., to discuss the possibility, Black said.

Ashland High School Swim Team coach Todd Lantry wrote a letter supporting the plan, saying it makes “the most sense by being cost-effective and straightforward.” The letter is co-signed by the Southern Oregon Aquatics Committee, Ashland High School Athletic Director Karl Kemper, the Phoenix High School Swim Team, the board of Southern Oregon Water Polo, the Board of Rogue Valley Masters Swim Team and the Rogue Sharks Swim Team.

High school competitive swim teams in the Ashland and Phoenix/Talent districts have gone without a proper competitive swimming pool for three years since SOU demolished its pool in 2015. The Phoenix/Talent district had considered building its own pool, but with the price tag of $10 million, its school board decided against it.

“It has left a big gap,” Black said.

Several Ashland residents have expressed opposition to the plan, saying it could jeopardize the school bond and more public input needs to be taken.

Other options include asking the city to go out for a bond by itself, which hasn’t been thoroughly discussed with city officials, or to repair the existing pool for roughly $2.5 million, Black said.

“Either way ... (Daniel Meyer) needs work,” he said. “We just don’t know where to turn.”

— Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.

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