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Survey intended to determine if the majority of the community would support funding a new swimming pool

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County, City of Prineville and Crook County Parks and Recreation District have pledged money to fund a  professionally administred survey to determine whether or not to move forward with replacement of the local pool.

Last Tuesday was a big day for people involved in the ongoing swimming pool replacement effort.

That afternoon, the pool advisory committee and Crook County Parks and Recreation District personnel met and discussed who will lead efforts going forward.

"The original committee is going to be reformed. It will be expanded," said Committee Chairman Wayne Looney. "The expansion will be made possible because the two parks and recreation board members are going to go off of the committee."

Looney explained that the new advisory committee will operate under the parks district, and the organization will serve in more of a supporting and advisory role.

"We will be the people who make the decisions about moving forward or not moving forward and what that rendition that we would propose would look like if we do move forward," he said. "They (parks district personnel) are there to give us valuable information about what can be done, what can't be done, and the difficulties that we might encounter."

Later that evening, at a Prineville City Council meeting, Looney appealed to the governing body to contribute $5,000 to fund a scientifically valid survey administered by Fairbank, Maslin, Metz & Associates (FM3), a California-based firm that conducts up to 300 random surveys per year.

Crook County had at that point agreed to provide $5,000 as had the Parks and Recreation District, leaving city officials as the missing piece to fund the survey. Looney explained that the survey would provide data that would help determine whether or not the majority of county residents would support a new swimming pool and if so, at what cost.

"We see great value in this," he said.

While some council members, such as Steve Uffelman and Mayor Betty Roppe, were willing to contribute the money, others hesitated, citing concerns. Councilor Teresa Rodriguez said that the sample size for the proposed survey, 300 people, was too small to determine what a county of more than 20,000 people wants.

"I want to reach a many people as possible to get as much information as possible," she said.

In response, Looney pointed out that FM3 makes a strong effort to be as random in their sampling as possible, starting first with email contacts and then turning to phone calls to reach the 300 target.

"I know that the number 300 sounds small, but they were confident, because of the way it is spread throughout the county, that it would give us information that would be accurate," he said.

City Manager Steve Forrester and Roppe backed up that belief, noting that they have encountered similar information that suggests the sample size is sufficient.

"I have talked to people who do surveys, and they have some formula, and it doesn't take a whole lot to get an answer as to what the town is thinking," Roppe said.

In his attempt to persuade the council, Looney went on to stress his belief that it would take help from multiple local agencies to move the pool project forward. His assertion was later supported by Forrester, who noted that the collection of hundreds of thousands of dollars in data center electrical franchise fees has put the city on much better financial footing than the parks and recreation district.

"The city is in a very, very enviable financial position … it has put the city in a position to do some things financially today that we would otherwise not be able to do," he told the council. "I think that we can say that we have a little bit of a responsibility to bridge a gap between today, when the city has the advantages it financially does because of those franchise fees, and when those (data center) tax exemptions start to effect parks and recreation in Crook County."

The council ultimately voted to approve the $5,000 contribution to fund the survey by a 6-1 margin, with Councilor Dean Noyes casting a no vote.

Looney said he expects the survey to take place within the next one to two months. Once the results of the survey are known, that data will determine what the advisory committee does next — even if the information suggests the majority of people don't want to support a new pool.

"This is not something that our committee or Parks and Recreation is going to say this community should do," Looney stressed. "We are going to try to determine what this community wants us to do and will support."

But if the survey shows support for a new pool, the committee is hoping to move forward with a countywide bond measure that would appear on the November 2018 ballot.

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