Portland residents Kaitlyn Dow (front left), Kailee Denney and Melodi Haley clap Monday after city council approved contributing up to $2.25 million to build a new city pool. Council had voted 4-3 against a similar proposal at its previous meeting. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)
Portland residents Kaitlyn Dow (front left), Kailee Denney and Melodi Haley clap Monday after city council approved contributing up to $2.25 million to build a new city pool. Council had voted 4-3 against a similar proposal at its previous meeting. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)
Portland City Council on Monday voted unanimously to make a major contribution to a new pool.
The unanimous vote followed a 4-3 vote against a similar motion at the last council meeting.
The city will contribute $2.25 million to help build a new Portland Pool if the project meets the estimated cost of $3.29 million. If the bids fall short of that figure, the city will contribute 68.4 percent of the total cost.
Portland Park Board president Rod Ashman said he was happy the council decided to contribute to the pool.
“I feel really good. I mean, I was shocked that we got a 7-0 vote, but that shows the city feels how important that is,” Ashman said.
The work toward building a new pool has been in progress for well over a year, and Ashman thanked the pool advisory committee for its efforts in researching the project.
“Everybody has worked really hard for it. Now we have to go out and raise some money, but now we get to build a pool. I think they’ll be glad that they voted for it. The city will be glad. It’ll be something to be proud of,” he said.
The motion came after discussion among council members about the city’s future financial commitments.
Councilmen Kip Robinette and Bill Gibson expressed concerns about spending a major chunk of the city’s cash reserves on the pool when there are other city projects that need to be paid for.
“We’ve still got roughly $12 million laying out there right now that we owe and probably another $20 to $25 million hitting us in the face in the near future with separation mandates, which is a pretty good chunk of money,” Gibson said.
Robinette said the city will have to look at doing a bond issue and raising sewer rates again in the future.
“What kind of money are we looking at on these projects,” he asked. “I’m just trying to get a handle on in the near future what we’re going to be committing or need to be committing.”
Councilman Kent McClung said the pool is a quality life issue, and building a new pool will draw people to Portland, which may not happen without it.
“The sewage separation is going to have to happen.
“My fear is that if we don’t offer a quality of life to mitigate that cost, we could end up having wonderful sewers and nobody using them or not as many people as we need to be,” he said.
He said a new pool will have a positive impact on all Portland citizens, offering a recreational activity for everyone during the summer.  
“When I grew up, we had a pool. The people who built the pool in 1960, the people that sat here, spent the money to have the pool,” said McClung. “It helps keep a population in Portland that might go someplace else.”
Portland Mayor Randy Geesaman said new and expanding economic development projects will help grow the tax base in the next few years.
“I don’t see us decreasing revenue,” he said. “I’m hoping if we continue down the road, and the City of Portland grows, that our tax base will expand so the concerns about, are we going to be able to afford all of this, I think we can alleviate that.”
McClung offered an almost identical motion to the one he made two weeks ago, but added the percentage on a sliding scale based on the final cost of the pool.
Robinette, who voted against the previous motion, said he voted in favor of the motion Monday night because the percentage clause was added.
“I didn’t vote ‘no’ last time against the proposal, I vote against the amount. There wasn’t a percentage involved in the amount last time,” he said. “I’m still uncomfortable with the amount because down the road we’re going to raise rates and bond, irregardless (sic) of what we did tonight, it’s just going to come sooner now.”
Councilman Michael Brewster also previously voted against the motion, saying he needed more time to consider the city’s financial outlook.
“I just wanted the numbers, to see where we were at,” he said Monday night. “I was comfortable with the $2.25 million after I thought about it.”
The next step in the pool project is hammering out details and bidding, Ashman said following the meeting. The park board will meet at 7 p.m. tonight at the Street Department building.
“Even though we presented a rough draft of a pool, we’ll get more drawings. Then it’ll go through a bidding process. It’ll probably take all summer to find the right pool that we want and the people to build it,” he said. “We’d like to get that started in August. If we can get that process started in August, we’ll have a new pool in the spring.”
In other business Monday, council members Gillespie, McClung, Brewster, Judy Aker, Gibson, Robinette and Mark Hedges:
•Voted to set aside the money for the Geesaman Industries replacement project.
•Learned the city-wide cleanup will be from May 12 through May 16.
•Learned the community cookout will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday behind city hall.
•Approved $934,861.17 in claims.