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Prineville has its own unique challenges and traits when it comes to a pool that sets it apart

Pool replacement efforts have seemingly disappeared from the public eye in recent months. Citizen committees that were combing through facts and figures from past studies, compiling new data and engaging public input have recently had little to say — at least publicly.

For those who don't recall, one committee formed that sought to drum up public support for a new pool and determine community interest in a new facility. Another committee comprised of citizens and parks district leaders later formed and pursued a feasibility study that examined the cost of the type of pool the majority of the community wanted.

The leaders of these efforts were looking into the possibly of putting a bond measure before voters, but stopped short of doing so after determining that operating costs will need addressed first. The committee concluded the best way to pay operating costs for a pool would be to expand the parks district, but no action has yet been taken to move that idea forward — one that would require more residents to take on parks district taxes.

But the pool replacement idea has seemingly bubbled beneath the surface and will once again take its place in the public eye, this time thanks to an effort by the Shelk Foundation. Having watched the pool replacement efforts unfold during the past couple years, John and Linda Shelk saw a situation in need of a different approach. As foundation member and spokesperson Kristi Steber puts it, they had seen many good people having a hard time setting on a direction and decision.

Their solution is to wipe the slate clean and reach out to other communities without any preconceived notions of what will work and what won't. With the help of a hired consultant, they have contacted community leaders in Madras, Heppner, Hood River and Boardman — communities that built and are currently operating a pool — to share how they found success. What did they build? What did it cost? How did they afford to build and it and how are they paying for operations?

They will share their findings, compiled in a 26-page report, at an upcoming public meeting where representatives from each community will share their story and offer recommendations for Prineville.

This approach is encouraging to see and it is easy to understand why the Shelk Foundation wants to tackle this situation with an open mind and leave past conclusions out of the effort. There is a freedom in this approach that allows them to explore ideas that others may have assumed wouldn't work. If there is an idea that worked in one community, why couldn't it work here?

The Shelk Foundation is hoping the meeting will draw a crowd and resurrect the pool conversation. It probably will and hopefully a lot of people who care about the pool will take time to attend and more importantly, give feedback.

But after the meeting is over, and the new information is in hand, the prudent approach would be to consider the new examples with the additional context of past studies and committee work. It makes sense to leave those studies behind when pursuing new data, but that new data should not stand alone.

Fact is, Prineville may be similar to Boardman, which has a data center, or Madras, which is located in Central Oregon, or Hood River and Heppner in other ways — but the town has its own unique challenges and traits that set it apart. These challenges and traits have been examined exhaustively during previous studies and remain an important piece of the puzzle.

Hopefully, whoever takes the data and input the Shelks compile and runs with it will embrace all of the information — past and present — and perhaps, at long last, come up with an idea that is affordable and palatable for the majority of the community.


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