No more treading water on Orchard Mesa Pool

A draft agreement that changes some of the operating terms for the Orchard Mesa Community Center pool, but keeps the three-way management system in place, appears to have garnered the support of members of the Grand Junction City Council and the Mesa County commissioners. And that’s welcome news.

Last year, the commissioners threatened to withdraw from the three-decades-old agreement under which the city, the county and School District 51 each have responsibilities for the pool. This newspaper and many people objected to that possibility because the pool on Orchard Mesa has been a joint endeavor and a valuable community asset since it first opened.

The city, county and school district signed a 99-year agreement in 1982 that evenly divided construction and most operational costs between the city and the county and left District 51 responsible for the pool’s electric bills.

Fortunately, the commissioners agreed to reconsider their intent to abandon the agreement, and we applaud them for that. But that came only after the City Council agreed to re-examine the old agreement which, through a series of actions, had left the city with control over the pool’s budget.

Under the proposal considered this week, the three entities would create a Pool Board, which would have one member from each of the three groups. The board would recommend an annual budget plus capital projects for the pool, as well as any changes in its operations, its closure, sale or privatization.

The City Council, county commissioners and school board members would all have to agree to any of those recommendations before they can be implemented. If there is not a mutual agreement on the budget for any given year, then it would revert to the budget of the previous year.

County Commissioner Rose Pugliese has made it clear she wants to use the new agreement to look for ways to turn all or part of the pool’s functions over to private businesses. It’s fine to solicit private interests for operating the pool or providing some of its needs. But the county shouldn’t start from the assumption that private contractors will unquestionably be able to provide less costly or more efficient services. As Commissioner Steve Acquafresca pointed out, that didn’t work so well when the county opted to use a private business to handle scheduling at the Long Family Memorial Park.

And we hope the three entities don’t consider selling the pool outright, because that could lead to its eventual closure without public input.

The Orchard Mesa pool was intended from the first to be a community asset, providing recreation and exercise to individuals and families. It was not designed to be a for-profit business.

We hope the new agreement allows it to continue swimming steadily along for many years to come.


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