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Coolness subsidies

Cheney Free Press of Cheney, Washington

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Work, funding needed to keep Cheney's aging pool operating

When it comes to Cheney's 1964-era swimming pool, the overriding principal for maintenance and upkeep is pretty simple.

"If the budget allows," Kim Best, Cheney's recreation supervisor, said.

While operating supplies and maintenance to keep the pool full of clean water are essential, upgrades come with a price somewhere in the city's budget. City Administrator Mark Schuller lists those upgrades as "planned" and "unplanned."

Among the planned needs for 2016 was a new chlorinator, essential for keeping the water clean despite hundreds of hot and sometimes not-so-clean kids jumping into it. Parks Maintenance Supervisor Rick Engel said the previous chlorinator was 15-years-old, and with the rate of technology change should have been replaced several years ago.

"You could replace it every 2-3 years to be on top of things," he added.

Pumps that feed the chlorinator were also rebuilt. At $2,600, the new chlorinator is a bargain compared to the older model's $10,000 price tag; something Engel said was higher because it had remote-operation capabilities.

The city also replaced six lights in the pool's deep end with the newer

LED (light emitting diode) fixtures. Engel said these are brighter, longer lasting and more cost effective, adding they might consider replacing eight other lights with the newer fixtures.

At $400 a fixture, plus labor, it will likely be a replacement Engel said is spread out over time.

"We'll do a couple next year, if we can," he said.

Under the unplanned category falls replacement of the pool's heater, which Engel said was new when he started working for the city 21 years ago and is something generally replaced every 7-10 years. There were also system leaks and several valves that needed replacing.

Also unplanned was replacing the bathhouse roof that was damaged in the November 2015 windstorm. Schuller said the city has received money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover that estimated $2,000 cost.

One item in the upcoming category, Engel said, is the valve that controls the inflow of water from the pool gutters into the 30,000 filtration tank, not an easy task given it's done in a wet, confined space. "There's lists," Best said. "You could go on and on. People have to understand it's a 51-year-old pool."

When it comes to operations, the city will spend about $28,000 during the season, which runs from mid-June to just before school starts in early-September. Those costs are $708 for miscellaneous items such as permits, $12,636.83 for utilities and $14,643.69 for operating supplies such as chemicals.

Add in $75,000 for labor, and the total pool bill for the 2016 season comes in at $107,671.97. Schuller said, however, that the labor may "be a bit understated," as it covers not only part-time pool personnel but also full-time staff such as Best, Engel and himself.

"Regardless, pool operation is into the six figures each summer," he said.

All this comes while also attempting to keep swimming affordable for Cheney residents. Revenues from pool fees were estimated at $45,000 in the city's 2016 budget, and Schuller said they always head into the budgeting process knowing it will need to be subsidized.

Best said the heaviest usage is during the week, with any combination of lessons, open swims and rentals taking place from 9 a.m. - 10 p.m. Single open swim prices are $2.25, with teen and adult lap swims at $1.75 and family prices running $3/each for a family of four. Pool passes range from $17 for 10 daily passes to $41 for 30.

By comparison, at the Spokane County North-side Family Aquatics facility, singles passes ranged from $2.50 for kids ages 3-5 and $5 for individuals ages 6-59, with 25 "punch" passes $50. Rates at city of Spokane facilities are $2 for ages 4-17 and $4 for 18 and over, with season passes ranging from $60 for youth 4-17 to $250 for families.

"We are pretty low on the totem pole as far as rates go," Best said.

John McCallum can be reached at

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Original Publication Date: July 14, 2016

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