Pool upgrades still in works, despite COVID

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

As many Lebanon businesses and service providers have struggled under the COVID pandemic, so has the Lebanon Community Pool.
Staff had to be laid off twice during state-mandated closures, and revenue has dropped at least 25 percent due to the closures, said Lorlee Engler, executive director at the pool.
The community pool was able to open briefly during the summer when Lebanon was in Gov. Kate Brown’s “Phase II” category, but has again closed when Brown enacted the two-week “freeze” and then placed Linn County in the “extreme risk” category.
“Generally, people were really glad to get back to the pool and really thankful, and now everybody’s bummed (again),” said Julie Miller, board member of the Lebanon Aquatic District. “So many of the seniors in the area really count on the pool for all their physical therapy exercise and social community.”
The closures, meanwhile, gave staff the opportunity to make some repairs and updates in the facility, and the board of the LAD hired Larry Mullins as a consultant to make progress on a pool expansion.
The board agreed at its October 2019 meeting to sign a contract with Mullins, former CEO at Samaritan Health Services. He will help the board work through decisions and negotiations regarding pool expansion or the construction of a new facility, and help prepare a bond measure to present to the community.

ENGLER sits on a bench that was resurfaced during closures last year.

Throughout the year, Mullins had conversations with school district Supt. Bo Yates and Samaritan’s CEO, Doug Boysen, regarding possible options for a new facility, Engler said. Boysen floated around an idea to have the new pool erected near the hospital, but LAD would have to buy the land, which leaves less funding available to go into the pool itself.
“Financially, it would make more sense for us to stay where we’re at,” Engler said.
Also, the best location would be at the high school so students and the swim team can access it, and the third graders can continue to receive free swim lessons there, Miller said.
“That was really an important point to the board, was the kids get to keep doing that; so they didn’t really want to move it off site,” she said. “But our greatest wish is to just have it right there on campus, and we would like to stay open while we’re building a new pool.”
As Mullins helps the board navigate through their decision, the staff at the pool is prioritizing a list of maintenance issues to address at the current facility, Engler said.
“The sad-but-true reality of operating an aged facility is that there is always something to fix,” she said.
During the closures, Jim Knaup, pool operator/facility maintenance person, took the opportunity to make some necessary repairs.
Knaup resurfaced old waterlines and pipes in the locker rooms, cleaned and repainted the HVAC ducting, installed plexiglass at the front counter for COVID, fixed the pool’s boiler, placed fresh sealer around the warm pool, replaced the UV lamps and performed annual maintenance on the UV system. The warm water pool was drained so the bottom could be painted, and flooring, gratings and walls were deep cleaned.
Knaup also built a new canoe rack and refinished the wooden benches along the walls.
At this point in time, Engler is hoping to see the pool reopened in February, but they have to follow regulations and metrics set by the state that change week by week, she said.
“My whole beef is this is just a moving target all the time,” she said.
But Mullins has proven to be a source of encouragement for Engler, she said.
“I cannot stress enough how this pandemic has affected the pool and me on a personal level,” Engler said. “From the get-go (Larry) has been like, ‘We’re gonna get through this, we need to keep staying the course. So that’s just been really positive. I always feel so much better after talking with Larry.”