Now that school is out and the days are heating up, it’s time for some fun in the sun! Luckily the Red Lodge City Pool opens soon. Each summer the pool sees 3,000+ people swimming from Red Lodge, Joliet, Edgar, Bridger, Roscoe, and Absarokee. To help ensure our pool’s future, on June 30th from 6-8pm there will be pool party to kick off the building of the first pool endowment our city has ever seen.
This summer the pool prices have increased due to pool operation costs increasing. The average cost per day is $800 to operate the pool; about $70,000 annually. It’s a common problem that many cities in Montana are encountering. As government budgets thin, it’s difficult for local governments to continue funding pool operations and many have had to increase prices, or even close, in some cases.
“We struggle to find the dollars every year to operate and maintain the pool. We have to balance the needs of street repair, police and fire protection, the library, parks and the pool, all out of a limited general fund. The pool is costly, but I see it as more than just a place to swim. It is one of those places like the post office or the grocery store where people see their friends and neighbors. It is one of those places that helps to define the difference between a city and a community.” stated Mike Schoenike, City Council President.
In an effort to prevent any closure discussions in Red Lodge, the City of Red Lodge and the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation have partnered to create a Permanent Pool Endowment Fund to try to ensure the long-term sustainability of the pool. While it will need some capital improvements in the future, it’s important to ensure that the operating costs will always be covered. There have been a couple of cases of cities raising money to build new pools, but quickly having to close them due to lack of operational funding. We are working together to ensure that this isn’t Red Lodge’s future.
Drowning is the second cause of accidental deaths among those under 16 in the United States and each summer 120 local kids learn how to swim from lessons at the city pool. “Our pool is an invaluable asset. Not only does it teach life-saving skills, but it provides a social, fun, safe atmosphere for youth and families to hang out at. I hope pool supporters will work with us to build this permanent endowment. We need to raise the first $25,000 right away to establish the endowment. Our goal is to raise $1.7 million to generate enough annual income to fund total pool operations and eliminate reliance on local government funding,” stated Tracy Timmons, Executive Director of the Community Foundation. “We are very excited about partnering with the community to keep pool operations secure.”
The pool party on June 30th will be a great opportunity to “pool” together to help ensure our pool’s future. It will feature music from FM99, a BBQ, a raffle for a season family pool pass, pool games, and fun. City officials will be present to make a splash for the cause! Suggested donation at the door is $10/adults and $5/youth. Thanks to sponsors FM99, Kids Corner, and The OP & WE Edwards Foundation for making this event happen!
For families that need assistance now with the increasing prices, the Community Foundation has two youth funds that can help: the Youth Enrichment Fund and the Girls in Motion Fund. Last year the Youth Enrichment Fund subsidized pool usage for 10 lessons and 7 family passes and more can be done this year.