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Survey finds little support for proposal to build pool on city's new Grabhorn property

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Grabhorn property neighbors the existing Veterans Park in Scappoose.The Scappoose City Council voted last week to scrap proposals for a pool at the new Grabhorn property neighboring Veterans Park.

The city had proposed an outdoor pool on the property, which will be developed to include other park amenities.

In a survey, 68.8% of Scappoose residents said they would not support additional property taxes to construct and operate an outdoor pool, and 71.5% said the same for an indoor pool.

The city-managed survey received responses from 578 individuals living within Scappoose city limits.

Mayor Scott Burge said the results were similar to a survey conducted nearly two decades ago, when residents were overwhelmingly against funding a pool.

The council formed an ad hoc committee to develop plans for the Grabhorn property earlier this year. The committee was instructed to provide the city with two designs for the future park later this year: one with a pool, and one without.

After receiving the survey results, councilors voted to direct the committee to abandon the pool idea and focus on a proposal for a park without a pool.

In the survey, some respondents cited the struggles of Eisenschmidt Pool in St. Helens as a reason not to build a pool in Scappoose.

Eisenschmidt has struggled financially for years, despite receiving tax revenue from the Greater St. Helens Aquatic District and user fees from both St. Helens and Scappoose visitors. The pool's leadership started a fundraiser to replace its aging boilers earlier this year.

Other respondents said Scappoose should focus on improving existing infrastructure like streets and sidewalks, or add other amenities like a community center, before adding luxuries like a pool.

"I think a pool would be nice eventually," one respondent wrote. "However the Veterans Park area is already lavishly served with recreation amenities and I would like to see some park development in other areas of the city."

The survey included city staff estimates that an outdoor pool would cost $3.5 million and an indoor pool would cost $11 million. City officials estimated operating either type of pool would cost about $500,000 per year.

Operating the pool would require a property tax of 69 cents per $1,000 in assessed value. A bond for an outdoor pool would cost an additional 40 cents per $1,000, while an indoor pool would be $1.34 per $1,000.

For a home with an assessed value of $300,000, the annual property tax increase would be $327 for an outdoor pool or $609 for an indoor pool.

"The financial impact is not worth a public pool that I'll likely have to pay to go to anyhow," one survey respondent opined.

"We would like to have a pool. We would also like to live in Tahiti six months out of the year. Unfortunately, we can't afford either one," another resident quipped.

Other residents said the idea was short-sighted, and an example of City Hall getting excited about growth with, as one wrote, "no regard about long-term maintenance cost nor the city's ability to financially take care of what is needed."

A number of respondents mentioned the lack of other, potentially cheaper recreation opportunities, like a community center. Though Scappoose has developed parks, there is no public parks and recreation system.

In St. Helens, the city-run recreation center offers classes and other social and recreational programs for kids and adults.

The city attorney said Scappoose can seek guidance from the state attorney general's office as to how to use existing pool funds. The city holds funds raised from prior pool initiatives, but the $48,331 is far from enough to build a pool.

The attorney general's charitable division will be able to tell City Hall if using those funds for a different but related use, like a splash pad or other aquatic amenity, would be appropriate, Scappoose's attorney said.


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