The city of Hermiston is getting serious about an indoor pool.
A 2016 survey showed an indoor aquatic center was the top “livability” priority for Hermiston residents, and the city is in the midst of a feasibility study to determine what it would take to get there.
City Manager Byron Smith said he expected staff would have something to present to the city council in October. He and parks and recreation director Larry Fetter have been working with consultants from ALSC Architects of Spokane to put together a report about preliminary designs, and what the Hermiston-area market would support.
“They’ve helped us work through a lot of analysis,” Smith said.
He said the city was looking at the indoor pool in the context of a “health and wellness center” that would provide other recreational opportunities beyond year-round swimming. He said the city would need to determine what the project would include before looking at possible locations.
After the consultants’ part of the study is put together, city staff plan to do further work looking at possible financing options. Smith said there probably wouldn’t be much in the way of grants available for the project.
The most common way for cities to pay for aquatic centers is through bonds. The city has been paying off its bond obligations for the Hermiston Family Aquatic Center — which opened in 2004 — using Transient Room Tax funds assessed on local hotel stays and an increase in the city’s operating levy. Two separate attempts at a bond failed to pass). The indoor Boardman Pool and Recreation Center that opened last summer was paid for by a bond levy passed by voters in 2014, adding a property tax of 95.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
Another option that has been discussed is creation of a recreational taxing district that would possibly include Umatilla, Stanfield and Echo.
Hermiston had a small privately owned indoor pool at the Columbia Court Club until 2016, when the workout center had a fire that destroyed much of the inside of the building. After two years of fighting with insurance companies, owner Steve Watkinds told the Hermiston Herald that he has decided to sell the club instead of continuing with another two years and $200,000 in attorney fees.
Hermiston also lost another year-round swimming option when the Blue Mountain Community College pool in Pendleton closed. The Hermiston High School swim team had been commuting to Pendleton to practice there.
Briana Cortaberria, executive assistant to the superintendent for Hermiston School District, said the district “fully intends” to have a high school swim team in the coming year, but the details were still being worked out. In the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, which Hermiston just joined, boys swim season is in winter and girls swim is in fall.