Blackfoot town hall meeting on the pool

Longtime Blackfoot resident Deann Williams addresses the town hall meeting on the subject of the pool.
Catie Clark

Blackfoot held a "town hall" meeting at the Nuart Theater from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday to listen to what interested residents had to say about the City's pool. The meeting drew 54 people, 16 of which got up to speak.
The people in attendance were overall in favor of finding ways to keep the pool open and viable. Many of the comments were both expressions of support and concern, and also suggestions and queries on ways to keep the pool going.
The meeting opened with a 15 minute presentation by the mayor on the history of the pool and a recap of the recent bond measures to fund it that failed.
The City put a $5 million bond initiative on the ballot twice: once in May 2017 and again in November 2017. The first measure failed by only 16 votes. The second received a 61 percent approval rate but under Idaho law, a super-majority of 67 percent was necessary in order to pass. The $5 million dollars would have restored the pool to a near-new condition.
"If we could have passed the bond, we wouldn't have to talk about the pool right now," Carroll said.
The pool may not look aesthetically pleasing but it is currently in safe operating condition and funded to operate until the end of Blackfoot's current fiscal year which ends on Sept. 30, 2018.
Longtime Blackfoot resident Deann Williams summed up a lot of the feeling in the room: "When we moved to Blackfoot in 1972, there was this beautiful pool and I thought: what a blessing! All my family used the pool and I still use it. But we haven't advertised the pool enough. I bet if we took a poll on Fisher, I bet most people who live there haven't ever even been to the pool. We needed to advertise the bond and educate the people of Blackfoot and Bingham County about the pool. You can't take your money with you when you die. We need to spend that money for those who are coming after us. I know it's a lot of money to fix or replace it, but we need our pool."
Aaron Mackley said: "I'm very much a supporter of the pool but I think, one, we need to look at what other successful pools are doing that we aren't; and two, what can we do about getting the county more involved in supporting the pool. It's all about marketing. We could use a marketing plan for the pool."
"I passed out a lot of 'Save the Pool' signs," said Diane Burt, who tried to organize people last November in support of the bond measure. "I talked to a lot of people and found that a lot did not understand what they were voting for. The pool is good. It brings people to Blackfoot. We need to keep and somehow make it better. When I was talking to people, I found that there was confusion on what they were voting for. Some thought that with voting no, things would stay the same; and that yes would mean we were building a whole new facility. Yes, we needed better voter turn out but we also need to let the community know exactly what they were actually voting on."
"I've lived in Utah and in Seattle and I've seen some successful pools," commented Judy Brownwell. "As I get older, I appreciate the pool here as a therapy pool. I think we should let doctors from Pocatello to Idaho Falls know about our pool as a therapy help. There were a lot of little cities around Seattle when I was living there that marketed their municipal pools as therapy pools. It's a great resource for that and we should let more people know about it."
"Financing is the issue," Jim Wilcox said. "The pool is useful in treating people. Why isn't the hospital involved in supporting it? The National Guard wants to use it once a month. Why aren't they involved? People use it from outside the area. Why aren't they involved? I think I'm preaching to the choir here."
Several people commented that the bond issue did not do a good job of explaining exactly what the $5 million would be used for. The issue of communicating what the pool had to offer and how the City could do a better job of making that known was discussed.
The issue of a new bond measure was brought up. "I would be in favor of a bond with a built-in maintenance clause," Donna Barnard remarked. "I know people got tired of bond initiatives but maybe the third time would be the charm."
"We need to find a way to fund it," Carroll said toward the end of the meeting, "because it ain't working the way it is now. Maintaining an indoor pool is the most expensive thing that a city can do, recreation-wise."
"I'm involved in the Search and Rescue group and I'm a supporter of the pool," said Bart Gardener who lives outside of Blackfoot in Bingham County. "Living in the county, it's frustrating to think that the pool depends on the people of just the City of Blackfoot when we all use it. I wish there was a way that the people in the county could support the pool. For the County Search and Rescue, it's a huge asset for us. There has to be a better way. I do think we underutilize the power of social media to support the pool."
"Maybe we could use a 'Friends of the Blackfoot Pool' group," suggested Jason Joiner, whose father was on the City Council when the pool was built. "I'm not a good organizer but I write and my pen is available to help the pool."
Jeff Mossbooker got a round of applause after he addressed the meeting: "We're not putting our dollars back here in our own community. We need to get off our butts and support our town. We need to stop driving to Idaho Falls to eat or to Lava to use their pool. We are the problem if we aren't supporting what we have here in our own town."