Funding falls short for crucial renovations of Twisp’s Wagner Memorial Pool
By Ann McCreary
As renovations of Twisp’s public swimming pool got underway last month, new problems with the pool have come to light and the town is facing a dilemma about the best way to move forward.
Not surprisingly, the biggest issue facing the town is lack of adequate funding to do the needed work on the Wagner Memorial Pool.
The Twisp Town Council was scheduled to consider ways to address the pool problems at its meeting Tuesday evening (June 14), with hopes of opening the pool as soon as possible. The pool would normally have opened to the public last Saturday (June 11), but is unlikely to open before July 1.
Contractors are in the process of resurfacing the pool, which is 50 years old this summer. The pool has been leaking water for several years, and repairing the plaster and lining of the pool is expected to resolve the problem.
The resurfacing project was planned to be done in two phases, said Andrew Denham, Twisp public works director. The first phase, now underway, involves removing and replacing damaged plaster on the pool shell, fixing cracks, and sealing the pool with an impermeable coating.
After that phase, expected to cost about $115,000, town officials planned to fill the pool and open it for the season. A second phase of the project, planned for next year, would resurface the gutters around the pool perimeter.
However, contractors discovered that the lining and plaster in the gutter system is badly deteriorated, allowing water to leak from the gutters toward the pool structure, creating cracks in the concrete shell and soaking into the plaster coating, Denham said.
The shell of the pool is scarred with dozens of cracks, some of which contractors have “stapled” together with metal joints to keep them from growing any larger.
The work is being done by W.M. Smith & Associates from Ellensburg, a firm that specializes in pool construction and repair, Denham said.
“They have told us they’ve never seen a pool this bad — never seen anything that needed this much work,” Denham said this week.
Denham called a meeting Monday (June 13) of people interested in the swimming pool, including representatives of the Methow Valley Killer Whales swim team, Winthrop Kiwanis, and Friends of the Pool, a local nonprofit organization that has raised thousands of dollars for pool improvements over the past decade or so.
Denham explained that unless the leakage from the gutters is fixed, it would jeopardize improvements to the pool completed during the first phase. However, there is a shortfall of almost $51,000 to complete the second phase of the renovations. Total costs for the entire project is estimated at about $166,000.
Since last year, Friends of the Pool has raised the major part of the funding needed for the first phase of the pool resurfacing. In addition, volunteers from Friends of the Pool, along with other community members, donated about $5,000 worth of labor to help remove damaged plaster.
After learning of the latest developments in the pool project this week, members of Friends of the Pool said they would try to raise the $50,000 needed to complete the work this summer.
“Our whole dedication is to keep the pool going so our children can learn to swim in a safe place,” said Patty Yates, a founding member of Friends of the Pool.
“We also knew last year when the problems [with the pool] started coming up … if we couldn’t raise the money, we couldn’t open the pool. It’s like doing a giant bake sale. You just keep doing it over and over. It’s only $50,000,” Yates said.
The swim team will also contribute toward the project, said Andy Floyd, president of the team’s board of directors.
With the pool opening pushed back by almost a month already, the town is facing a time crunch in trying to arrange financing and complete the pool renovations while the contractors are on site, Denham said. He said he planned to recommend that the council approve moving ahead to complete the entire project.
Denham said he would suggest three options to finish the work. “The best option is that by the time we get the bill in July, we can pay it” as a result of community fundraising efforts, he said.
Another option would be to try to arrange a deferred payment plan with the contractor to allow the town to pay the bill over a period of several months. The least-preferable option, Denham said, would be for the town to arrange short-term financing as an interim solution while Friends of the Pool raises money.
He said the meeting with pool supporters Monday already produced promises of a $5,000 gift and potentially another $2,000-$5,000 donation toward the $51,000 needed to complete the project.
Swim team stranded
Meanwhile, the swim team is trying to figure out how to get the 85-plus children on the team into water before the first swim meets of the season get underway at the end of June, Floyd said.
Normally, the team would begin using the pool for training during the last week of school. Floyd said some older team members may swim in Patterson Lake, and the team has contacted Omak, Okanogan and Brewster to see if there might be practice time available at those pools, if parents are willing to drive their children that far away.
As part of their work on the pool, the crew from W.M. Smith & Associates corrected a problem caused by settling of the structure that was discovered near the entrance to the wading pool.
Constructed in 2001, the wading pool had become lower at one end, which created leaks and interfered with proper circulation of water throughout the entire swimming pool, Denham said. New plaster was installed to level the structure.
To correct the leaking gutter issue, concrete decking that overhangs the gutters will be cut away so that the contractor can resurface the gutters, seal the leaks, and install a plastic screen over the open gutters.
Plans called for the concrete decking to be cut away by the contractor, but Twisp public works employees will do that work instead in order to reduce project costs by almost $12,000, Denham said.
He said he is working to find other potential cost savings in the project, including using town public works employees to install expansion joints in the deck around the pool, a job that was initially part of the contract.
Twisp has faced a perennial issue in supporting the Wagner Memorial Pool, which serves not only Twisp residents but also the Methow Valley as a whole. A foundation created by the Wagner family provides about $16,000-$17,000 in funding for pool operations each year, including money for scholarships to provide swim lessons for local children.
In addition to swim lessons, the pool offers water aerobics, lap swimming, swim team practice and meets, and can be rented for public and private gatherings. Each summer Twisp hires and trains valley residents — mostly teens and college students — to work as lifeguards.
In 2014 a ballot proposal to create a valley-wide park and recreation district to support the pool and other community recreation facilities was turned down by voters.
For information about Friends of the Pool call 996-2119. Donations can be made to Friends of the Pool, P.O. Box 438, Twisp, WA 98856.