Plains pool problems proliferate

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A LEAKING stainless steel apron and rotting metal braces were discovered at the Plains pool when the surface was removed. (Photo courtesy of Plains Mayor Dan Rowan)

You know how sometimes when you dig into a problem, it gets worse before it gets better? That is the case with the Plains swimming pool.

The replacement of leaky pipes was proceeding apace, with the pool on schedule to open in June. But when the fill was pulled away from the sides of the pool, several other problems were discovered that could not have been known as they lay underground.

The pool was built in one of only a few years where a certain combination of steel apron and braces are known for deteriorating and developing leaks, and that is exactly what has been happening. The structure of the pool will not be able to continue to hold up as water is filled or drained.

At the May 6 town council meeting, Mayor Dan Rowan showed pictures of rusted seams and bows in the apron, and rusted and broken braces extending away from the sides. Replacing the sides with concrete was considered, but it was agreed that engineering would be required rather than a quick fix. Of the $50,000 raised by the community to fix the pipes, approximately $30,000 will be used, but the remaining $20,000 will not be able to cover the newly discovered restoration needs. The pool may have to be closed for the year as solutions and funds are found, possibly at least partly by saving the $42,000 annual operating budget for this year.

Discussion with the audience included the possibility of keeping the pool open longer by enclosing it, and the fact that a fairly small voter-approved levy could make that possible.

Rowan acknowledged that some citizens advocate abandoning the pool, but noted significant community support as shown by the recent fundraising, and expressed his personal preference to keep the pool for the community. Ron Robinson, who at one time served on the town council, reminded them that if there is no pool, kids will swim in the river in hot weather. He said the community has always decided in the past that the cost of the pool is worth it, if it can prevent even one kid’s loss of life in the river. Proposals and bids to restore the pool are being sought.

The need for a new fire hall roof was brought up as high-priority during the May 6 meeting. “Just like with a home, any building needs maintenance, and this has been put off for years,” said Rowan. “We have a lot of things to catch up on.” The ongoing threat to the sewer lagoons from the encroaching Clark Fork River must also be addressed, Rowan said. Small increases in sewer rates over time were discussed as a way to build up funds without a last-minute large rate hike — burdening the ratepayers. The town is in a good position to receive grants for planning for sewer solutions.

Willow Street paving project is under way. Drainage of runoff water is a major issue. The option of drywells to capture the water has been ruled out as there is too much water, they are expensive at about $15,000 each, and they last twenty years at the maximum. “The answer is ditches,” Rowan said. Unfortunately, he said, it will require “some understanding” by residents that creating drainage ditches on the town property beside the street will mean they won’t have full access to street-side parking. An example of drainage problems created on private property that impacts the town streets was brought up by the audience. The potential need for an ordinance requiring private property owners to properly deal with their own storm water so the taxpayers don’t have to pay to handle flow concentrated onto streets by their actions was discussed.

Council member Audrey Kolbeck reported on a meeting of the planning board, which discussed the trend toward tiny houses as many people are looking for affordable housing options and smaller lots to maintain. Discussion ensued regarding how the town might address the desire for smaller lot sizes, understanding that this creates higher concentrations of homes with resulting drainage, parking and storage issues.

Ron Robinson was appointed as the second of three police commissioners by unanimous vote, joining Connie Foust. A third candidate has expressed interest to fill the last spot.

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