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LOSD assessing how to move forward with the effort to build a new pool after recent open house

PMG PHOTO: ASIA ALVAREZ ZELLER - A packed crowd in Lakeridge High Schools Rotunda Room receives pool updates. Lakeridge High School's Rotunda Room was so packed with community members last Wednesday night that people trickling in late had to sit on the steps and public officials stood, lining the wall in the back of the room.

What drew such a crowd? The Lake Oswego School District was holding its first community engagement open house for the Lake Oswego pool.

The goal of the meeting was to present preliminary information the consultants had gathered, evaluate four site options and — with the help of the community — get feedback on which two sites they'd like to see the district move forward with.

Instead, the organizers of the open house were met with such strong concerns from the community that the district has decided to change its timeline for planning the project.

Mary Kay Larson, director of communications at LOSD, said, "We're evaluating the viability of the project in different iterations.We've also spoken with the City and together we're assessing the cost to build, the cost to operate and the opportunities gained and lost for the different (options)."

In 2017, Lake Oswego residents passed a capital improvements bond for LOSD, allocating $7 million to the renovation or replacement of a pool for the district. Depending on the size and scope of the project, the allocated amount might not be enough to complete that project.

Earlier this year, voters passed a Lake Oswego parks, recreation and open space bond allocating $30 million to acquire real property for open space or parks, or to renovate, replace or develop park and recreation facilities.

LOSD and the City began preliminary talks about a partnership to create a pool and possible recreation facility that would meet the needs of both the district and the community at large.

"It's safe to say that the City and district have had several conversations," said City Councilor John Wendland. "We are both wanting to look at options for all the constituents and to make sure the City and the district and the people at Lake Oswego can come up with the most cost-effective, efficient solution."

He said a decision will certainly be made, it's just a matter of splitting up the funding between the two entities. "Contributions still have to be confirmed," Wendland said.

At the open house, the Opsis Architecture-led consulting team — which was hired by the district in August of this year — started the meeting with a presentation of what's been done to date.

They then proposed other amenities that could be built in conjunction with the pool. The amenities included a warm water pool for swim lessons and recreational use, a multi-purpose gym and a whirlpool and sauna.

As an engagement exercise, facilitator Nancy Hamilton led the community in a poll that asked which of the amenities options they were most interested in seeing come to fruition. She added for clarification, "you can't choose to not have a pool, that's a given."

Next, the design consultants presented four possible sites for the pool and potential recreation center. The proposed sites were the Lake Oswego Golf Course, the Rassekh property, Lakeridge Middle School and Lake Oswego High School (on a different plot of land than where the pool currently resides). With each site, they detailed the acreage of buildable space, as well as the pros and cons of using that site.

Larson said what the community wanted in terms of amenities would dictate location, and vice versa.

The open house, though not what organizers expected it would be, did serve as a temperature check. Those in the room had a number of concerns pertaining to the pool and little to say about other amenities. Some did ask about the costs of amenities like the warm water pool or multi-purpose gym, but the consultants said they hadn't done the necessary assessments to know for sure. The most voiced concern was over the preliminary decision of a 25-yard stretch instead of a 50-meter pool given that the versatility of the pool is dependent on the pool's dimensions.

"I think there was just a bit of a disconnect. Instead of having more of a broad-based community [in attendance], it was primarily a pool-focused group that was highly focused. I think they were looking for specific answers," Wendland said.

Still, he said, "We learned a lot from that."

Had the meeting gone as intended, next steps would have been to winnow down the site options to two, at which point the consulting team would have come back with more complete designs. Instead, Larson said, " (Executive Director of Project Management) Tony (Vandenberg) and team are taking into consideration a 50-meter versus a 25-yard stretch pool ...and looking at the cost to build it, the cost to operate it and opportunities gained and lost."

The district held an open house during the preliminary planning stages of the project because community engagement is seen as a priority.

"This project has the potential to be a wonderful asset in Lake Oswego, and we want residents' input throughout the process to make sure it's the best fit for our entire community now and in the future," Larson said.

The next open house, which was scheduled for Nov. 20, has been put on hold as the district works to assess its options.

"From my perspective, I really want to try to get the City and the district to work together to figure out a solution for the next 50 years … and we'll get there," Wendland said.

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