TRF voters to decide on pool

by April Scheinoha

    In 2018, Thief River Falls voters may have an opportunity to vote on whether the city builds a swimming pool. At its meeting Tuesday, July 12, the Thief River Falls Parks and Recreation Committee approved creating an exploratory committee to determine the legal preparations for such a venture. Council Member Josh Hagen was appointed to chair the committee.
    Hagen asked the committee to discuss the construction of a swimming pool. He noted there has been another push for it.
    For years, talk has circulated about the possibility of an outdoor swimming pool in Thief River Falls. An indoor swimming pool is located at Franklin Middle School.
    On Wednesday, July 13, Finance Director Angie Philipp said the Swimming Pool Fund contained $239,896.77, as of May 31. That amount includes interest.
    At the meeting, Mayor Brian Holmer noted that initial donations to the fund were $80,000. The last donations were made in the 1990s. The remainder has been interest. “$200,000 isn’t much for cash or $250,000,” he said.
    Hagen replied that he wanted to have a conversation about bringing a vote to the people. He added that he didn’t think the city needed to do another study on a swimming pool. “I think we can do it on our own,” Hagen said.
    Council Member Curt Howe agreed with putting it to a vote. “I think the public has to come forward and push this,” he said. Howe also cautioned about the cost of maintaining a swimming pool, noting that East Grand Forks recently spent a million dollars to repair its swimming pool plant.
    Council Member Jerald Brown replied that East Grand Forks voters approved a one cent sales tax to cover that cost.
    Brown asked committee members to postpone discussing staff issues related to ice at the Ralph Engelstad  Arena and Movie in the Park at Hartz Park. He asked for those matters to be discussed further at a future Labor Committee meeting.
    “I would like to know what the problems are out there,” Howe said in response to Brown’s request.
    Brown said the Parks and Recreation Committee meeting would then have to be closed. He added that Howe, who doesn’t serve on the committee, would have to be among those leaving the room before the Labor Committee met.
    Brown, Holmer and Hagen sit on the Labor Committee.
    At the time of Brown’s request, Parks and Recreation Committee members were discussing issues with ice during a Thief River Falls Amateur Hockey Association camp at REA. They were also discussing the postponement of the June 24 Movie in the Park, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which was rescheduled to the following Tuesday. The movie was postponed at 12 p.m. Friday, June 24 due to bad weather forecasted to occur around dusk. At the time of both incidents, Parks and Recreation Director Joe Amundson was on vacation, and both matters were handled by staff.
    The Parks and Recreation Committee meeting remained open with the Labor Committee set to schedule a meeting in the future.