Swimming pools may typically cool people off, but Missoula’s aquatics project generated plenty of heat at the Oct. 17 Council meeting, where four people railed against the project’s progression since voters in 2003 approved $8.1 million in bonds to fund the project. The locals asked Council to put the plan on hold, saying city misinformation might be grounds for a lawsuit.
The plan to replace Missoula’s old swimming pools with an indoor center at McCormick Park and an outdoor center—including a 50-meter pool—at Playfair Park has run into trouble since the election. Skyrocketing construction costs pushed the price tag to more than $12 million, according to Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler, though the city has kept up by scaling back features and securing more money from local government.
The main contention at the meeting was that the approved ballot included a 50-meter pool at Playfair Park. Now, however, the pool is reliant on private fund-raising, according to former Council member Larry Anderson.
“I think the project that is going on is substantially different than what was presented to the voters,” he said.
Jane Rectenwald, a member of the city’s local government study commission, says the voters and Council were misled.
Gaukler, who was not at the meeting, said the plan all along has been to privately fund the $1.4 million competitive 50-meter pool and the public campaign reflected that. Swim Missoula, the group raising the money, signed an agreement with the city on the matter. And though the ballot itself doesn’t reflect the complete funding plan, Gaukler says the resolution that put the proposal on the ballot spells out details of the 50-meter pool agreement as well as other details that simply couldn’t fit onto the ballot.
Two Council committees promised to look into the matter Oct. 19, and City Attorney Jim Nugent was asked to weigh in on the legal issues involved.