What’s a pool worth to the people?

City discusses sales tax increase, higher fees to keep pool open year-round

    Simply bringing it up as “food for thought,” Holyoke City Council member Gene Bittner mentioned swimming pool funding concerns to the rest of the council at the July 2 meeting. The pool, he said, has been operating at a deficit, and he wondered whether a City sales tax increase might be the solution.
    Since a 1985 increase, 0.5% sales tax collected by the City has gone to the operation of the pool. Bittner suggested trying for another 0.5% for the pool, which would increase the total City sales tax to 2%.
    Understandably, some council members have doubts about a sales tax increase being approved, as other recent attempts have been unsuccessful. Other ideas mentioned for addressing the deficit were higher rates for pool use or closing it down for the winter.
    The consensus was that operations are only getting more expensive. One way or another, people are going to have to pay for it. Really though, they’re already paying for it, as funds are currently being taken from elsewhere in the City budget to keep the pool afloat.
    City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Olofson pointed out that the council has until July 26 to decide whether a sales tax question will be on the November ballot.
    Though the deficit is a problem that will require further discussion, the council did approve a $4,090.95 purchase of a new 16-foot diving board from Arnold Pool Company. The old board, City Superintendent Mark Brown said, had a crack that was discovered during preparations for the June 1 swim meet.
    
Officials report
    Brown reported that the electric department received a couple trouble calls but otherwise has been trimming trees to get ready for seal coating and pouring a sidewalk to the new pilot’s lounge at the airport. The water and sewer department continues to rod sewers.
    The street department has also been preparing for seal coating by patching streets. Cleaning drains and picking up tree branches have also kept the crew busy.
    Police Chief Doug Bergstrom, who recently returned from the chief’s conference,  reported that Holyoke Police Department, including code enforcement, handled or generated 416 calls for service from June 13-July 1. HPD made three arrests, wrote 16 citations and four reports, and gave out 45 warnings. Code enforcement handled nine animal complaints, eight dogs at large and 16 ordinance violations.
    Olofson reported that Trisha Herman of Phillips County Economic Development sent a letter asking whether any council members would be willing to serve on a housing committee for the county’s upcoming housing assessment.
    Olofson also presented council members with the new municipal code that recently came in. City Attorney Al Wall will finish reviewing the new books and will soon have an adopting ordinance drafted to repeal the old code and adopt the new.
    
Rec department finishes summer baseball
    Recreation director Victoria Dunker updated the council on her department’s move to a new office within the Peerless. A $1,720 purchase of new office furniture from Printers Paper and More was approved.
    Dunker reviewed a successful season of summer baseball and outlined upcoming department activities, which include a youth golf clinic, sectionals of the Rockies Baseball Skills Challenge, a booth at Phillips County Fair and National Night Out.
    The  next meeting of the recreation advisory committee is set for Wednesday, July 17.
    
Other business
    In other business at the July 2 meeting, council members:
    — Following a public hearing, adopted Ordinance No. 1-2019 amending 17.16.120 of the Holyoke Municipal Code.
    — Approved the Phillips County Fair Board request for special events permits July 24-27 for the county fair. Local permit fees were waived.
    — Paid Wall $871.50 for professional services on the State Water Division 1 case, which started in 2015 and was since dismissed.

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