Swimming pool levy gets ‘yes’ vote – barely

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home’s swimming pool got a two-year reprieve, by a fingernail in swim racers’ lingo, as a two-year local option tax for pool operations passed by a 54-vote margin Tuesday, May 15.

County Commissioner Will Tucker was another winner, in the only other truly contested local race, defeating challenger Christine Ruck to earn a second four-year term on the commission. Tucker drew 5,853 (59.89 percent) votes to 2,717 (27.80 percent) for Ruck in the race for Position 3.

In the Democratic primary for the 4th District U.S. Representative’s seat, incumbent Peter DeFazio defeated challenger Matthew Robinson with about 90 percent of the vote. DeFazio got nearly 80 percent in Linn County, while Robinson finished with 16.6 percent of county Democrats’ votes. DeFazio will face Robinson’s father, Republican Art Robinson, in November’s regular election.

Passage of the Sweet Home pool funding measure means the facility will continue to operate for the next two years, during which time the school district is expected to explore the possibility creating a pool district such as those in Lebanon, Albany and other area cities, to keep the facility running.

The levy passed Tuesday will cost taxpayers 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for two years, is expected to raise an estimated $90,000 in 2012-13 and $90,900 in 2013-14 to fund the pool, which belongs to the Sweet Home School District but was defunded by the School Board last summer in a cost-cutting move. The school district announced it would cut most of its swimming pool operations in an effort keep the facility open in the face of reductions in state funding, but the Sweet Home City Council kicked in $10,000 last July to help keep the pool operating.

The ballot measure was filed with the clerk on Feb. 23 after the School Board voted in November to pursue that option.

The measure passed with 1,249 votes for and 1,185 against, 46.87 percent to 44.47 percent.

“I was hoping it would pass by a little more than that, but I’ll take it, that’s for sure,” said Bruce Davis, president of the Sweet Home Swim Club, which spearheaded most of the campaign in favor of the measure. “It was close but I’m happy.”

Davis said that voters may have been confused over whether the measure would impact funding for police. The levy will not.

“I was hearing people saying, ‘why are we voting for something that’s going to take away from law enforcement?’”

He said he also realized, during the campaign, that a surprising number of people were not even aware the pool was facing closure.

“When we handed out flyers, even after the ballots had come out, it was amazing how many people hadn’t heard,” Davis said.

As far as what happens next goes, he said that will be up to the school district, which still owns and operates the pool.

“That question needs to go to the School Board,” he said. “That’s the thing I keep telling people. ‘Yeah, we pushed to keep the pool open but we don’t have any control over the pool right now.

“People are asking when lap swimming is coming back. I don’t know. I don’t have the answers.”

Schools Supt. Don Schrader said a meeting will be arranged to bring together the various parties with interest in the pool to establish how it will function.

“We are going to meet with the pool director and sit down and put together an action plan, see what the program’s going to look like,” Schrader said.

The district also will look at Fridays, when there will not be school next year, for open swims, lessons and activities for students, he said.