Trust fund support runs out in 2024
By Ann McCreary
A trust fund that supports the Ernst O. Wagner Memorial Pool in Twisp will run out of money in 2024, and the Twisp officials say the town will not be able to support the facility on its own after that funding is gone.
“It’s hard to see how, when the Wagner Fund goes dry, we’re going to bridge that gap,” said Hans Smith, a Twisp Council member. “We’re not on a sustainable trajectory with the pool.”
While six years may seem like a long time, Twisp Council members and the mayor say it’s not too soon to develop plans to sustain the pool. The pool’s financial future came up during discussions of Twisp’s preliminary 2018 budget at last week’s council meeting.
The pool is funded through the town’s general fund, with an additional $15,000 each year from the Wagner Fund. Twisp pays about $64,000 toward the total $79,000 annual cost of operating and maintaining the pool, according to Town Clerk Jackie Moriarty.
The pool was built in 1966 after a young boy drowned in the Methow River. Ernst and Kathrine Wagner funded the construction of the Ernst O. Wagner Memorial Pool, with the goal of providing a safe place for Methow Valley children to learn to swim. The Wagners also set up a trust fund to support the pool.
The money in the fund has been invested in treasury bills and has provided a consistent source of support, Moriarty said. But that fund will be depleted in 2024 and town officials said Twisp can’t carry the financial burden on its own.
“I believe that regardless what form it takes, we do have to address this as a larger community,” said Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody. “If it isn’t in the form of a park and recreation district, the community has to come together in a collaborative effort.”
Twisp officials have maintained over the years that the pool is an asset that benefits all Methow Valley residents and visitors to the valley, not just the 1,000 residents of Twisp. A few years ago a campaign to create a parks and recreation district was launched. The proposed district, which would have been able to levy taxes to support the pool and other recreation assets in the Methow Valley, was rejected by voters in special election in April 2014.
“How valuable is the pool to our community? I’m hoping between the Twisp Park and Recreation Commission, Friends of the Pool and other recreation collaboratives in the valley, some sort of clarity will come. It’s a very difficult subject, but we have to address it, not just within the boundaries of our town,” Ing-Moody said.
Friends of the Pool, a nonprofit community group, has been raising money to help with pool maintenance and improvements over the past decade. The organization has provided an average of about $7,500 per year, Moriarty said. But two long-time members of Friends of the Pool, Patty Yates and Carol Gaston, recently stepped off the board, and the organization is looking for new board members.
In addition to providing swim lessons, lap swim and water aerobics, the pool is also “a venue for a really successful swim team [The Methow Valley Killer Whales],” said council member John Fleming. If Twisp is unable to afford the pool after the Wagner Fund runs out, “would there be any wisdom in the idea of selling the pool?” he asked at last week’s council meeting.
Ing-Moody said the idea would need to be researched to evaluate whether it would be feasible to sell the facility.