Concerns Over Aquatic Center

Let’s put the horse in front of the cart

I have a few concerns about the proposed Kootenai Wellness Aquatic Center in Libby/Lincoln County. The cost, first stated to be as much as $5 million, has grown to as much as $10 million. There are conflicting statements as to whether the project will be built on Libby or Port Authority (county) property, which would determine liability, and how operational and maintenance costs are allocated. The pool, assumed to be used partly for competitive swimming events, has only four lanes, whereas all competitive pools must boast six lanes.

Comparisons with Polson (pop. 4,875) and Whitefish (pop. 7,850) versus Libby (pop. 2,737) seem unrealistic. For an accurate comparison, ask the residents of Dillon (pop. 4,134) how much they regret their choice to build a six-lane pool. Funding for the construction is described, variously, as coming from local donors, or a single unidentified benefactor. The 68 surveys that supporters collected represent 2.5 percent of city residents, and not all of the attendees of this most recent presentation were in favor of the project.

The acronym for the project, when spoken aloud, is pronounced “quack.” I would only be in favor of such a project if the prodigious benefactor(s) set up the funding such that an interest-bearing operational and maintenance account were part of the deal, in an amount that could guarantee no tax levy in perpetuity. In addition, I believe that supporters must make the effort to gauge countywide interest via a survey mailed to every property owner.

Let’s put the horse in front of the cart, like it should be.

Gary Armstrong