By Norman Yoder, Mayor of Auburn
There’s been a lot of discussion about the Auburn Community Pool especially after it was announced that this past summer was its last one of operation. Many want the city to keep the pool open. I understand those sentiments. The pool has been a community asset for 60 years. I wish there was a viable option to keep it open, but as I evaluate the evidence, I know we’re making the best decision that will allow our city to be fiscally responsible and maintain a balanced budget.
Let me assure you this decision was not taken lightly, nor was it made quickly or in isolation. In fact, the pool has been a continuous discussion for nearly three years with the Parks Board, as well as City Council and the Board of Works. We’ve had conversations with various stakeholders, formally and informally, to seek input. All our research and debates have led us to consensus—closing the pool is the best solution.
Let me share a little about how we reached that decision:
- Premier Aquatic Construction and MartinRiley Architects conducted an extensive assessment in 2015. This independent assessment evaluated the current state of the pool, its compliance with today’s swimming pool regulations, and the options and costs to bring the pool up to code. Bottom line: At 60 years old, the pool needed a lot of work—at least $1-$2.5 million for necessary code repairs, and well over $4 million for any sort of upgrade.
- Like most community pools, the Auburn pool didn’t support itself. It cost much more to operate than it brought in. While we’re not in the business of making profits, we do need to be able to sustain our budget. Over the last four years, we’ve lost at least $20,000 a year in pool operating costs. Clearly, it’s not our desire to continue to operate at that deficit.
- This year, the YMCA added a pool with outdoor access. With more than 9,000 members, the YMCA is attracting a large number of visitors and citizens of Auburn. Plus, Garrett has a community pool that many have joined. Competing with two pools within four miles of our own doesn’t make good business sense—especially when you consider that our admission prices would have to increase significantly in order to help cover any repair and renovation costs.
- The time to recoup costs has shortened. Over the past several years—as is the trend around the nation—the pool’s operational window has gone from three months to two with schools ending later in May and starting again in early August. It’s difficult to justify such significant costs for an asset that only gets used two months of the year.
We’d like to keep this community asset as a recreational space that can be enjoyed by many. We intend to keep the building and repurpose it, and the parking lot will also remain. Potentially, the area could be used to fulfill a current gap in our parks system (that’s how our dog park came about). And it would be nice to use the space for more months of the year while the weather allows people to be outside and active. Several ideas are being tossed around: splash park, skate park, outdoor fitness zone or ice skating rink.
If you have ideas, please come to the Parks Board meeting on Sept. 26. We want you to be part of the solution as we talk about what to do with this space next. Whatever its next purpose, it will continue to be an important part of the Auburn Parks system.