Pat Swanick: Pool a community success story

Submitted photo##A ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Carlton pool house is scheduled for Aug. 2 at 4:14 p.m.
Submitted photo##A ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Carlton pool house is scheduled for Aug. 2 at 4:14 p.m.

For the past eighteen months, I’ve been deeply involved in an exciting project to preserve and enhance Carlton’s Community Pool Complex. Carlton’s pool has a long and proud history, and the newly completed pool house is a community treasure.

Its story begins in 1919, with a meeting of several civic-minded women in Carlton. Nearly 100 years ago, these forward thinking people discussed a plan for a community pool, to provide a recreational resource for local residents and lifesaving swimming lessons for their children.

Guest Writer

Pat Swanick chaired the Citizens’ Pool Project Advisory Committee to pass a revised bond measure and raise private funds for the new Carlton pool house. He is a retired banking executive and now serves as board chairman of Oregon Vineyard Supply and as a board member and treasurer at Juliette’s House.

On March 29, 1935, the dream of that women’s group became a reality, when ground was broken for a community pool. Thanks to a project commissioned by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression, Carlton’s community pool was born. The project required $2,500 in materials and 4,520 hours of work to complete.

Carlton’s pool has always welcomed everyone, from near and far. For a nominal fee, a day pass can be purchased, or, for a few dollars more, a season pass will ensure a summer of fun. Over the years, thousands of kids learned to swim, and countless others have enjoyed splashing around with family, friends and neighbors. Exercise classes are held regularly for participation by all age groups. While most pool patrons are from Yamhill County, it’s common to encounter visitors from other communities and tourists from many states.

The pool itself has been well maintained and updated as needed. However, after 80-plus years of heavy use, the pool house was on the verge of collapse. The facility was no longer compliant with current building codes, seismic regulations or ADA requirements; the mechanical equipment and physical structures were rapidly deteriorating. It wasn’t possible to rehabilitate the building, due to its poor condition. Additionally, the building’s capacity was inadequate for the number of today’s users. Under Oregon law, a community pool must have a properly equipped pool house, so it wasn’t feasible to simply demolish the original building and keep the pool open.

The pool complex is located in Upper Wennerberg Park on Main Street, in the heart of downtown Carlton. As the pool house declined, the building became an eyesore for all to see on a daily basis. In November of 2014, a bond measure was placed on the election ballot for $1.3 million to construct a new pool house. The measure was defeated by a narrow margin, as voters were confused about the project’s scope and the property tax impact of the proposal. We learned an important lesson that clear communication with voters is critically important.

Mayor Kathie Oriet, members of city council, and City Manager Chad Olsen, quickly re-grouped. The council appointed a Pool Project Citizens’ Advisory Committee to study the issue, recommend changes to the project’s scope and cost, and implement an outreach strategy to educate residents and voters about the initiative and its benefits.

Councilor Shirley Ward-Mullen was designated as the liaison between the council and the committee, and I was elected committee chairman. We needed to create a new bond measure that would be acceptable to voters, but we’d still require a tidy sum for the labor and materials to make this project happen. An experienced architectural firm was hired to refine the design and construction details.

The committee discussed various ideas, finally recommending a multi-source funding strategy. A smaller bond measure was proposed to cover two-thirds of the cost, the city of Carlton would add funds from various internal resources, and foundation grants and private donations would be sought for the remainder of the required funds. This approach resulted in a much lower property tax impact for Carlton’s homeowners. Contributions were specifically solicited from those outside of Carlton, who use and benefit from the pool, creating a broader audience of financial supporters.

A bond measure of $975,000 was recommended to and approved by the city council, and the measure was placed on the ballot. Committee members canvassed Carlton neighborhoods, knocking on doors, passing out informational fliers and distributing “Save Our Pool” yard signs. Local children created colorful drawings, posting them on the post office bulletin board, pleading to preserve the pool. Kids in several neighborhoods made chalk art designs at street intersections, featuring their vision of a new pool house. In May of 2015, the bond measure was passed by a two to one margin by Carlton voters, and construction activities started shortly thereafter.

The Citizens’ Advisory Committee sponsored several fundraisers and requested private donations, with a goal of raising $50,000. To everyone’s surprise, the fundraising campaign raised more than $70,000 from individuals, businesses and organizations. As a clear indication of the pool’s value to our broader community, 76 percent of the funds came from those outside Carlton, including several donors from other states!

Grant applications were submitted to the Ford Family Foundation and the Oregon Community Foundation, both of which were approved by these generous organizations.

The New Carlton Pool House Project exemplifies the perseverance of a community that is focused on its future, while respecting and preserving the contributions from its past.

Carlton is well known by its motto, “A Great Little Town.” We’re fortunate to live in this special place and, working together, we’ve made it even more so, for decades to come.



Beautiful structure, congratulations on getting it done!

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