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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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County rejects Valley request to run pools

Spokane Valley officials’ latest attempt to persuade Spokane County to again operate the Valley’s swim pools was a belly-flop.

Commissioners reaffirmed Tuesday an earlier decision against managing the pools this summer because the county wasn’t given the city’s broader parks maintenance contract.

Spokane Valley officials awarded the parks contract to Senske Lawn & Tree Care Co., which offered the lowest price, so county commissioners bowed out of a separate pool contract.

Spokane Valley officials had hoped that the two newly elected county commissioners would have a different take on the issue than their predecessors, but after reviewing the costs of providing pool management, the new board came to the same conclusion as the old board.

Even without the county’s participation, Spokane Valley officials vowed there will be a Valley aquatics program this year – dives, cannonballs, belly-flops and all.

Spokane County Parks Director Doug Chase told the commissioners that it would cost about $275,000 to operate the Valley’s pools and in addition to seasonal employees require the hiring of two part-time parks staffers and more hours for another employee.

The county recently laid off several employees who had been working on the Valley parks and pool contracts.

“If we have to bring on staff that we’ve already let go, I’m not interested in doing that for a contract,” Commissioner Mark Richard said.

“I don’t know why this was brought back,” said Commissioner Phil Harris, the only commissioner remaining from the board that made the original decision.

“We’re not in the business of contracting. I’m never going to agree to hire people to contract,” Harris said, adding that liability costs associated with the pools plus the unemployment costs of seasonal employees losing their jobs at the end of the summer were additional reasons not to agree to provide aquatics services to Spokane Valley.

Spokane Valley now has two options – contract with the Spokane Valley YMCA, which has indicated interest in managing the city’s pools, or hire city employees to do the work, said Spokane Valley City Manager Dave Mercier.

Spokane Valley Mayor Diana Wilhite has publicly commented on the need to improve the relationship between Spokane Valley and Spokane County officials. This county decision was the first real test of how the two new commissioners, Mark Richard and Todd Mielke, would react to Spokane Valley requests.

It’s now unclear whether Spokane Valley aquatics costs will go down, up or remain the same, but City Councilman Richard Munson said it’s unlikely the city will raise pool fees.

“I’m not surprised,” Munson said of the commissioners’ decision. “Frankly I think they’re looking at it from a viewpoint of what’s most cost-effective for the county. They know we aren’t going to close the pools down.”

The YMCA hasn’t offered a specific package of services or price, said Steve Jurich, the YMCA’s branch executive director. Jurich said such details would have to be calculated after Spokane Valley issues a request for bids.

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