Pooling of resources has worked on OM
Three decades after Mesa County, the city of Grand Junction and School District 51 jointly agreed to build and operate a community swimming pool on Orchard Mesa, it certainly makes sense for Mesa County — or either of the other two entities — to re-examine that agreement.
But the unilateral decision by Mesa County last year to abandon the agreement and stop making its annual payments for the pool — done with barely any notice to the other participants and accomplished with nothing more than a memo from the county administrator at the time — was a poor way to go about it.
That action was taken under the auspices of the previous county commissioners. We’re pleased to learn that the current commissioners, especially Rose Pugliese, want to take a more public and cooperative approach to deciding whether to permanently rescind the agreement. Pugliese said she wants to hear from city officials and the public before reaching a final decision, which could come later this summer.
Good for her. However, we think more time should be allowed to obtain input from the public. After all, there is no immediate pressing need to reach a final decision on the future of the agreement.
The commissioners, of course, may still go ahead with rescinding the agreement. But before they do, we hope they will consider several other items.
First, the three-way agreement has worked well for over 31 years to maintain the pool, which is used by both school students and members of the community. The three entities have worked together — with the school district primarily responsible for paying the electric bills — to keep the pool operational during times when local government entities were relatively flush with cash and during far more difficult economic times than now, such as in the wake of the oil shale bust.
Equally important, if the county abandons its historic funding contribution for the pool, the burden of keeping the pool open will fall more heavily on the city, and perhaps eventually on the school district. But all three local government entities are funded by the taxpayers of this valley, so the county may be doing little more than shifting citizens’ burdens to other parts of their tax bills.
For now, the county’s decision not to pay for 2012 and its consideration of abandoning the agreement altogether means the city will have to pay the county’s share. But, with new City Council members who have also questioned the city’s involvement in non-essential projects, it’s not clear how long that commitment would last if the county isn’t involved. School District 51, beset with its own budget problems and new mandates imposed by the Legislature, has few resource it can add.
Of course, there is another option: to close the Orchard Mesa Pool and save all three entitities the money they’ve been spending on it. But an abandoned, empty and locked- up pool would be a sad testament to what this community values most.