Right now, folks at the Bitterroot Aquatic Center expect to get about eight good weeks of use of their outdoor pool.
That could all change if residents of Hamilton and Corvallis pass a $5.84 million bond and $350,000 operating levy this fall.
The Ravalli County Park District No. 2 is asking voters to pass a bond that will pay to cover the current outdoor pool and splash pad, provide an important upgrade to the facility’s pump room and add some additional infrastructure, including a much-needed family changing room.
“Right now, the aquatic center is operating at full capacity,” said longtime park district board member Carla Albert. “We are really busy during the winter months. We don’t have enough water to go around for the activities that we could be providing to the community.”
Presently, the aquatic center has a smaller indoor therapeutic pool that is open year-round. It is used for everything from water aerobics for the elderly to teaching infants water survival skills.
Albert said the center has been expanding those programs, including offering lessons to preschool and school-age children through the fall, winter and spring months.
“I’ve seen it gradually grow through the years,” Albert said. “Most of those programs are now full.”
Since the indoor pool is kept at a warmer temperature, it can be too warm for people looking to exercise, said the facility’s manager, Fern Schreckendgust. Covering the outdoor pool would also open up opportunities to teach things like kayaking and scuba diving during the winter months.
“We look at the outdoor pool all winter long,” said Schreckendgust. “We know it would be busy in the winter months if it was covered.”
The original $1.8 million bond that built the facility was passed in 2000. It will go off the tax rolls next year.
The estimated cost for a homeowner whose house has an assessed value of $200,000 would be $31.96 for bond and $24.92 for the operating levy.
Schreckendgust said the actual increase in taxes would be smaller due to the expiration of the initial bond and the fact that taxpayers are already paying a $175,000-a-year operating levy.
The Bitterroot Aquatic Center will host four open houses to further explain their proposal. They will be held:
• Friday, Oct. 4, 9-11 a.m.
• Tuesday, Oct. 8, 6-8 p.m.
• Thursday, Oct. 17, 9-11 a.m.
• Wednesday, Oct. 23, 6-8 p.m.
Albert said the park district has been working for on developing its proposal for the past three years.
“We wanted to know if it would be better to build a new pool or cover the existing one,” she said. “We looked at what economically would be the best option, what people wanted and what do current patrons need. We’ve been collecting that feedback for at least two years.”
“One of the more exciting revisions includes creating a family locker room,” Albert said. “That is one of the most frequent complaints we hear from the public. We have dads bring their 3-year-old daughters, or an elderly couple where maybe the wife needs some assistance getting changed. It’s something that is needed.”
When the park district was first formed to create an aquatic center in Hamilton, Albert said the initial plan called for three phases that included a covered pool, an outdoor pool and a warm pool.
“Maybe eventually we might get there, but we see this expansion as the best way to increase our capacity right now to be best serve the largest number of community members possible,” she said.
Ravalli County Elections Administrator Regina Plettenberg said mail ballots will be sent out Oct. 18. They will be due back by 8 p.m. on Nov. 5.
“Remember they can’t just be postmarked that day,” Plettenberg said. “We recommend that people get them in the mail the Thursday before.”
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