The board has received funds, signed a lease agreement, and selected a director

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - The Molalla Aquatic Center was filled with people for a high school swim meet on Friday, Jan. 5. The high school swim team has had access to the pool, but it has been closed to the public since August 2014.

The Molalla pool won't open in mid-January as the Aquatic District board had hoped, but they recently made some big strides that could push the process along.

"...we'll be moving forward, I think, a lot faster now." -Paula Beck

The board had originally planned to open the pool by November 2017. But because funds were not available until late November, which would allow them to hire a pool director, and because negotiations with the school district (who owns the property) were ongoing, that date was pushed back to a very tentative January opening.

A January opening won't happen either, but a number of things have happened that Board Chair Paula Beck expects will move the process along more quickly now.

"I'm feeling very optimistic and very happy about last night's meeting, and we'll be moving forward, I think, a lot faster now," Beck said.

In November, the board did receive their initial funds in the amount of more than $400,000.

Then, at their Jan. 2, 2018 board meeting, they announced that the intergovernmental agreement between the aquatic district and the school district was signed by both parties and in effect as of Jan. 1, 2018. With the agreement, a transfer of ownership is probable by July 2019, according to Beck.

Also at that meeting, the board announced that they have selected Melissa Georgesen as the aquatic director. Georgesen had been the pool manager in the past before the pool closed in 2014.

"I was very pleased with the four finalists," Beck said, "but I believe that Melissa is the best qualified."

She added, "Melissa was definitely the best prepared, and knew the pool, knows the community; and so it was a good fit."

To select the aquatic director, the board enlisted the help of a group of community members, who, after interviews, met on their own to make a recommendation to the board. The group unanimously selected Georgesen as their top candidate.

Liz Cruthers, spokesperson for the community group, said that while the members of the group all knew Georgesen, they were committed to an unbiased process of selecting the best candidate for the job.

"It was very much, from the community side, a very honest process to look for the best person, and that best person to hire to run the pool was Melissa, hands down," Cruthers said.

Aside from having managed the pool previously, Cruthers said that she was most impressed with Geogesen's commitment to serve all ages and groups in the community.

"Even while the pool has been closed," Cruthers said, "she has continued to demonstrate a commitment to fitness for people of all ages. For example, the school district tapped her to teach elementary student lessons for two years in a row. She's been coaching the high school swim team for seven years. And at her club, she is teaching a senior fitness class. So even while the pool is closed, she's serving people of all ages still."

"I actually think that this pool is going to be better than it was before." -Liz Cruthers

With the selection of a director and other important list items checked off, the board is much closer to a pool opening.

"I would hope that we would be able to have a soft opening by the middle of February and then have our grand opening over spring break so that we can have some events that kids can come to when they're out of school," Beck said.

But Beck's personal hopes aside, she said that the board has not established a certain date for the reopening.

"There's a lot yet to be done, but we are a lot closer than we were," Beck said. "I really appreciate people's patience."

Even with no certain date, those involved in the process are getting excited about the aquatic center's double doors opening up to the public.

"I actually think that this pool is going to be better than it was before," Cruthers said. "I really do. I think there's going to be more programs available down the road once it's fully open. I would expect to see more things going on at the pool than we had before. I'm excited to see it."

Kristen Wohlers
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