County willing to strike deal on Orchard Mesa pool

Mesa County commissioners are willing to reconsider cutting off payments to Orchard Mesa Community Center Pool if they have more say in the pool’s finances.

The county and the city of Grand Junction signed a memorandum of understanding in 1982 agreeing to split the pool’s expenses. Those costs exclude the pool’s electrical bills, which School District 51 agreed to pay starting in 1987.

Citing budget constraints, the county began decreasing its payments for its half of pool costs in 2009. Former County Administrator Chantal Unfug sent the county’s last payment in February 2012 — $44,000 of the $88,672 the county was supposed to pay for 2011 — along with a letter stating the county was “proposing that this be the final payment.”

Commissioners said during a meeting Wednesday morning with County Attorney Lyle Dechant they may be willing to reverse a consensus to stop paying for the pool pending some changes. That includes re-examining the part of the memorandum of understanding that makes the city the fiscal agent for construction and operation of the pool.

“I would feel comfortable with the county being part of that historic partnership if we could gain a voice, an equal voice, in the spending and the maintenance and any add-ons,” such as water slides or other projects, Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said.

Commissioner Rose Pugliese said the county would like to join the city in examining ways to get the pool’s expenses closer to the revenue it brings in by looking at more efficient ways to operate.

“I’m fine with supporting the pool. What I want to know is how much that’s going to be, where the money’s coming from and why is the city spending so much?” she said.

Grand Junction Mayor Sam Susuras, who was not at Wednesday’s meeting, told a reporter Wednesday afternoon he had heard nothing from commissioners about changing the agreement or giving the county more say in finances for the pool. He added his understanding from City Attorney John Shaver is that the city never heard anything formal from the county about wanting to cut off the memorandum, either. Depending on what Dechant and Shaver believe is a legal way to move forward, Susuras said he’s willing to “have an open mind” about working with the county.

“We would just like to see them back at the table,” he said.

Once at that table, Commissioner John Justman suggested the city and county re-examine fees for the pool, which currently are $4.75 for adults, $3.50 for seniors and kids, and $1 for babies.

“Maybe a small upward (swing) on the charge of using the pool will cover the expenses. Obviously it would be closer,” Justman said.

Acquafresca suggested the city and county “look at fee adjustments down the road after this partnership is re-established.”

If the county and city do rekindle their payment relationship, though, Justman said he would prefer an agreement with a shorter timeline than the current memorandum of understanding, which was set to last 99 years.

City council and county commission members will meet to discuss the pool and other topics at a joint meeting Wednesday, July 31.


COMMENTS

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How nice.  The county is “thinking” about living up to its partnership if they have more say in spending? No problem.  Let’s start with paying the bill for its share of the agreement to start with and then all parties can sit at the table.

Do commissioners really believe the county has been the only entity who has lost funding in the economic downturn?  After digging your heads out of the sand and realizing the school district cut millions and the city also tightened its belt to the point of employees taking a pay freeze for about four years it is nice to think about honoring a partnership agreement established for 99 years likely so down the road from 1982 some county commissioners, or city council, or school board could not on a whim decide to just quit!

Hopefully it can be accomplished without too much micromanagement.

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