Monday, December 06, 2021

Libby pool effort remains afloat

Editor | October 15, 2021 7:00 AM

Plans to build an aquatic facility in Libby remain alive, but treading water a spokesman for a local group behind the effort told city officials last week.

Tony Petrusha told Libby City Council on Oct. 4 that members of the grassroots organization had recently reconvened and opted to continue pursuing the project. He acknowledged, though, that the challenges facing the group had grown.

“The pool is on life support,” he said.

Petrusha, who serves as the city’s parks manager, became the public face of the pool effort when it first surfaced in fall 2019. Kootenai Wellness Aquatic Center committee — or KWAC for short — members developed several designs before settling on a $12.6 million proposal.

While organizers expected private donors would fund the facility’s construction, paying for maintenance and operation remained a sticking point. Before the effort dropped off the radar in the face of the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic, the group planned to lobby taxpayers to cover costs above what user fees could fund.

The proposal never made the ballot. Amid the pandemic lockdowns and economic uncertainty of early 2020, organizers opted to shelve the request.

“In my opinion, no one wanted to see a tax increase in this June election,” Petrusha told The Western News last year.

Petrusha put out a call for new volunteers for the committee at a July Libby City Council meeting. On Oct. 4, he told city councilors that the group had met to decide whether or not to move disband.

“The group voted to stay the course and continue to evaluate pool options,” he said.

While the concepts drawn up by the group are more than a year old, Petrusha said he thought they would remain useful.

“We had a high degree of confidence that the templates we’ve developed through the years and cost estimates and sizes for pools will be of value for the future albeit somewhat out of date for the cost of materials,” he said.