Red Lodge Pool will not open says Mayor

Alastair Baker
News Editor
Thursday, May 23, 2019

In a statement issued Wednesday Red Lodge Mayor Bill Larson confirmed the city pool would not be opening.

He explained that “even if we had the monies to open it, the unknown is, is it repairable in its present state and what else may malfunction?”

The pool, now over 30 years old, has had its maintenance and leakage problems in recent years and last year the pump went out and it was open for only 5 weeks, a third of the season.

The City estimates it loses $30,000 to $50,000 annually to keep the pool open and up to 13,000 – 15,000 gallons of water a day.  

Numerous fix-ups have taken place and studies done to try to determine the huge leakage problem but nothing appears to resolve any issues. 

Last week the Parks District presented proposals to the council on how to fund the pool and the 13 parks around Red Lodge.

Five funding ideas were suggested: 1) Creation of a Parks and Recreation District within the elementary school district that would include parcels of land, Roscoe Luther and Bearcreek, and put it to a public vote; 2) the City passes a resolution to create a City Parks District within the city, that will cost more mills within the city. No vote required; 3) Rewrite the Resort Tax to allow a certain percentage of the tax to be spent on parks maintenance and improvements, assuming the Resort Tax is renewed; 4) Increase general City taxes and hope some goes into the general fund; and 5) Do nothing and find money within the budget. 

The bottom line is the Parks District will need to collect around $230,000 a year to operate the pool, $167,000 a year for 20 years to cover rebuilding and operations and $64,000 for repairs and to maintain parks via grants.

If a Parks District is created then a 16-mill levy would kick in, that equates to $43.20 annually for a property over $200,000 or "if you're willing to give up about 7 lattes a year," said Parks Board Chair Anna Drew.

If suggestion 2 is followed and the City goes it alone then it would be 30-Mill levy.

After the presentation council members went back and forth over the options and were advised by several members of the public that they should not make the decision and it should be put before the public in a vote. 

Council member Dave Westward also commented that members of the public have approached him concerned over the funding proposals, especially the creation of a Parks District, saying they are “tapped out already” and “wondered will we be able to do stormwater, and streets?”

“Universally everybody likes parks but can’t we find money in the budget? We all live in our own fractions,” he said. 

Council member Mary Cameron was concerned about sharing the responsibility with the County and didn’t think the “relationship with the county is there.“

Drew responded, saying, “The only way to know is to try.”

Diane Dimich, council member, said, “Look at the big picture. There are a lot of things the city needs; stormwater maintenance, sewer, and water, streets. All of those things are going to cost more money but when we hear we had to cut $100,000 from the general fund this year…okay. We may have to up the Mills of the general fund. Personally, I go with the Resort Tax route. And the City figures out how to maintain it.”