New pact proposed for Orchard Mesa pool

A new draft agreement for joint funding of the Orchard Mesa Community Center pool would give Mesa County commissioners and District 51 School Board members more say in budgetary decisions for the pool.

The county, the school district and the city of Grand Junction signed a 99-year agreement in 1982 that evenly split pool construction, renovation and operational costs between the city and county and handed electrical bills to the school district. In 2010, the county started backing out of that agreement, which made the city the pool’s budgetary and fiscal agent and only gave budget review powers to city and county administrators. The county reconsidered its participation last summer after the city agreed it may be time for a new arrangement.

Commissioners and city councilors will review a draft of a new agreement this afternoon. If signed, the draft would replace the former agreement and create a Pool Board, which would have one member each from the City Council, Board of County Commissioners and School Board. The Pool Board’s responsibilities would include recommending an annual budget and capital projects for the pool; reviewing potential pool funding or operational changes; and recommending pool closure, sale or privatization, if desired.

City councilors, commissioners and School Board members all would have to agree to any of those decisions. If a mutual decision cannot be reached on an annual budget, the pool budget will default to the previous year’s budget until an agreement can be reached or the pool agreement is terminated. The agreement requires any of the three groups involved in the pool to provide notice of their plans to terminate the agreement at least one year in advance, except in the case of an emergency.

Commissioner Rose Pugliese said Wednesday during a meeting between county commissioners and County Attorney Lyle Dechant she worries the all-or-nothing approach to pool decision-making will prevent agreement-holders from seeking bids from private operators for pool services. Pugliese said she suspects private businesses may be able to operate certain aspects of the pool for less money than city staff but she doubts the city would agree to price-check.

“Part of the reason I agreed to come back into the pool (agreement) was the realization that we’re going to change the way operations work to save taxpayer money,” Pugliese said. “I’m not sure this does it.”

Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said Pugliese’s idea reminded him of a county decision to use private business to handle scheduling for Long Family Memorial Park, which he called “a huge mistake” that ended in the county returning to the city for those services. The city charged more for those services the second time around. “At least you knew and could tell taxpayers, ‘We tried this and it didn’t work,’” Pugliese said.

Acquafresca also questioned whether there are qualified businesses in the county to perform large-scale pool work. He did agree with Pugliese, though, that the county should ask the city today if the agreement could be for a shorter period of time. Both commissioners said they preferred a five-year agreement over the proposed 20-year term.


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