Friends of the Pool backs effort to open facility this summer
Friends of the Pool’s well-intentioned efforts to operate the Wagner Memorial Pool this summer ran into logistical hurdles and time constraints, and now the pool’s opening apparently is dependent of the Town of Twisp being able to hire a pool manager.
And the time frame for filling that position is short. The town needs to hire a manager by April 13, Friends of the Pool said in a press release, to ensure that the pool can open on time under town management.
The position is advertised on the town’s website and in this week’s Methow Valley News classified ads section. Friends of the Pool is helping to get the word out about the job opening in hopes of finding someone in time.
Earlier this year, the town determined that because of staffing shortages it would not be able to operate the popular facility this summer. Staffing, especially filling lifeguard positions, has been a challenge in recent years.
That announcement caught Friends of the Pool off guard. But the organization hoped to step into the breach and operate the pool as a concessionaire, and had been in discussions with town officials about how that might work.
At last week’s Town Council meeting, Friends of the Pool representative Jen Ramsey presented council members with a list of requirements for pool operations. Questions for the town included including how staff would be paid and who would assume insurance liability for the facility. As a volunteer-run nonprofit organization, Friends of the Pool is not in a position to set up a payroll, Ramsey said.
The Friends of the Pool memo to the council said that “Managing and maintaining the pool will also take time and resources away from our upcoming campaign to bring a new pool to our community,” but that Friends of the Pool was still willing to reach an accommodation with the town if possible.
“We are dedicated to seeing the pool open,” Ramsey told the council at last week’s meeting, adding that “perhaps this is a lot for us to take on.”
Town Clerk Randy Kilmer said it is “not impossible” for the town to handle payroll but details would need to be worked out. Citing the list of operational needs Ramsey presented on behalf of Friends of the Pool, Kilmer said those functions “are what we [the town] used to do.”
Ready to help
Council member Hans Smith described Friends of the Pool’s offer to operate the Wagner as “a meet-in-the-middle proposal” that required more discussion to see if it would work. The town needs to “decide if we can do it or come to a hard stop,” Smith said.
The “hard stop” may be coming soon if the town’s efforts to hire a pool manager are not fruitful. To that end, Ramsey said Friends of the Pool is ready to assist the town however it can.
In a press release, Friends of the Pool said “when the Town came to us in February stating they would not operate the pool this summer, Friends of the Pool assessed the practicalities operating it to serve our mission by ensuring a safe place for everyone to learn to swim, enjoy the water and stay healthy. We determined it made better sense for the town to continue to operate the pool with our support in finding a manager, recruiting lifeguards, assisting with trainings, and financial support as needed.”
Friends of the Pool has supported Wagner Pool operations for years and is now working on an ambitious plan to replace it with a year-round facility. With a 15-month long feasibility study complete, Friends of the Pool now is focused on fundraising for the project.
The organization is also exploring the possibility of forming a recreation district to help build and operate the new pool — which it is now calling the Methow Aquatic Center (MAC) — and hopes to have a proposal ready for the November ballot. A Friends of the Pool task force has been meeting to come up with a plan to get the rec district proposal ready.
Friends of the Pool, since its founding in 2005, has raised almost $400,000 to pay for repairs and other needs to keep the pool open.