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Parks board runs risk with pool compromise

Post by Kim Bradford on Feb. 25, 2009 at 8:41 pm |
February 25, 2009 8:41 pm

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Metro Parks commissioners better be prepared to deliver since they are keeping hope alive for Titlow Pool fans.

Titlow Pool will live to be fought over another day.

That was the word from Metro Parks commissioners this week as they announced a compromise aimed at ending the long-running feud over the West End pool’s fate.

The deal goes like this: The parks district gives Titlow a reprieve, advocates of a play pool the green light and swim teams a bone.

The strategy is at once a welcome end to the parks board’s dithering over how to spend money from a 2005 bond measure and an ominous sign that more dithering over Titlow’s fate could lie ahead.

For too long, the commissioners have allowed themselves to be whipsawed between competitive swimmers who demand Titlow be replaced with a similar pool, and parks administrators and others who believe that a family-style play pool would be a bigger hit with parks district residents.

The commissioners kept hoping they could do both, even though it was apparent almost from the get-go that Metro didn’t have enough cash on hand to serve two masters.

Now they seem to be hoping to buy themselves some time and cover.

Metro Parks will sink $125,000 into Titlow Pool in the coming months to keep it open at least one more swimming season. The 55-year-old 50-meter pool – which apparently loses enough water every day to fill a small above-ground pool – will get stopgap repairs to slow the leak and make its drain safer.

In the meantime, parks officials will proceed with plans to spend the 2005 parks bond money earmarked for Titlow’s replacement on a recreational pool at Kandle Park in the West End.

To assuage competitive swimmers who argue they campaigned hard for the 2005 bond, only to be swindled out of the money they thought would go to Titlow, Metro Parks will launch a task force. Members will brainstorm where to site a new competition pool in the South Sound area and how to pay for it.

That last part is a tall order. Metro Parks officials have been talking about partnering with other groups to build an Olympic-size pool for a couple of years now, and the idea went nowhere even in much better economic times.

With the chances of finding new money slim, swim clubs and Titlow neighbors will press to keep the patched-up pool open. Without a major overhaul – the likes of which Metro Parks cannot afford without another infusion of taxes – Titlow’s maintenance will become a drain on other parks projects and properties. Some could argue it already has.

Parks commissioners’ reluctance to pull the plug at Titlow fuels hopes that it will be saved or a new competition pool built in its stead. The longer commissioners keep the pool in such limbo, the more onus on them to deliver.

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