WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee City Pool isn’t doing taxpayers any favors, according to Mayor Frank Kuntz.
During a City Council meeting Thursday night — during which the council accepted a $355,000 state grant to renovate the pool — Kuntz said Wenatchee taxpayers shouldn’t be the only ones footing the bill of what he called a regional asset.
About 25,000 people participate in aquatic activities at the pool each year, according to the city’s websites. The city has renovated the pool multiple times. The most recent updates included installing a new gutter system, replacing the liner, resurfacing the deck and replacing filters.
The grant covers less than half of the estimated $888,000 it will take for the pool’s latest renovation: new tiles and plaster liner (the current one is 15 years past its expected lifespan). It’s anticipated that the project would go to bid this November with construction in 2023.
The remaining $533,000 will be taken from city funds. Kuntz said that in addition to paying for larger renovations like these every so often, Wenatchee taxpayers are also covering $100,000 and $150,000 in operational losses each year.
Kuntz added that renovating the pool is the correct short-term decision, but that working with surrounding areas on a regional aquatic center should be the next long-term step. Talks about the possibility of a regional aquatic center a few years ago went nowhere, Kuntz said. The pool was built in 1965, and the new renovations should last around 10 years.
“I think we need to start having that conversation and a commitment from the city that says this is about it for us,” Kuntz said. “It’s time for something new at some point.”
Councilmember Mark Kulaas noted that the YMCA is gathering public input on a planned new facility, which could include an aquatic center.
“How many swimming pools do we really need?” Kulaas said.
Kuntz said although there are a number of pools in the area, Wenatchee’s pool is one of only two 50-meter, outdoor pools in the state.
“For the swim meets, the 50-meter outdoor pool is the bomb diggity,” he said, adding that the YMCA’s new pool would likely only be 25 meters. “And maybe that’s enough, but at some point, I think the community needs to chime in as to what it is that they want us to continue to pay for.”