1970s documents show Blackfoot School District may have claim on pool facility

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BLACKFOOT — A recently uncovered 47-year-old document could decide the ultimate fate the now-defunct Blackfoot Pool.

“We just became aware of it Tuesday, checking with different people in the city — nobody knew anything about this,” Blackfoot Mayor Mark Carroll told EastIdahoNews.com.

The rediscovered document — a warranty deed from September 1971 — gave the city rights to 1.9 acres of land owned by Blackfoot School District 55 to build a new city swimming pool. The agreement stated if the land was not being used for the pool, it would revert to the school district, according to Carroll.

“The city said it would secure (federal) grant money to build an indoor pool,” Carroll says of the original agreement. “The school district would be allowed to use the pool during daytime hours as long as they scheduled it with the recreation director in the city.”

Councilman Chris Jensen says city and district personnel verified the document.

“That throws a monkey wrench into the works,” Jensen says.

City Council minutes from the fall of 1971 shows the City Council reviewed and approved the agreement before it was signed by then-Mayor Dan Daniels.

“The school district can call at any time and say, ‘We want it back,’” Jensen says. “Not only did we tell the federal government that we would maintain a pool in perpetuity (and) lose all Federal Parks and Rec funding, but we also made an agreement with the school district that we would maintain the pool in perpetuity or lose the property.”

Referring to the school district Jensen says, “They did approach the city before we found out that information and wanted to know if we could turn it into some type of rec facility that their springtime sports people could use.”

Blackfoot School District Assistant Superintendent Ryan Wilson, however, says the talks are preliminary.

“We’d had meetings with Mayor Carroll already about plans to move forward with possibilities that could happen with the facility but … we’re in the very beginning stages,” Wilson says.

He says the school district stands as a concerned party just like others in Blackfoot and is working with the city to determine the meaning of the nearly 50-year-old document.

He says the school district taking back ownership hasn’t been discussed. Wilson says what happens next is in the city’s hands, and the district is there to serve as support.

“The district certainly wouldn’t get involved until decisions get made on what the plan is,” Wilson says.

Jensen and Carroll also say the district agreed to pay 25 percent of the pool’s operational costs the first year it was open, and potentially thereafter. Carroll says after the first year, the city and district were to renegotiate, but officials aren’t sure that ever happened.

“It looked like the intent was that the school district would continue to pay a portion of the maintenance and operating costs,” Carroll says.

Jensen says the district hasn’t contributed any funds to the pool for at least 20 years. On top of that, Jensen says funds for the pool haven’t been budgeted properly for quite some time. He says no money was being saved for the pool, and the funds went to other priorities, landing the pool in the position it is now.

“In our budget, we specifically budgeted X amount of dollars for the pool. It came out of the general fund,” Jensen says. “Our last two mayors haven’t done that. They just relied on departments that didn’t spend all of the money, and we would take that and use it. Well, even that (didn’t) always happen.”

But regardless of operation, the pool needed to be revitalized, Carroll says. The last three bond attempts failed, and many parts of the pool facility are falling apart.

“The recirculation system, the filtration system, the pool lining itself needed to completely be redone,” says Carroll. “We need an infusion of between 4 and 5 million dollars to get it back to where it’s a viable pool facility.”

So now what?

“My opinion is and has always been the pool is important, we can reopen it, we could reopen it anytime. We just have to dedicate funding for it,” Jensen says. “The citizens want it.”

Jensen says there’s a “save the pool” group working on creating a recreational taxing district on the ballot this coming November.

“So even though the city has closed the pool, there’s still a push to create a pool rec district to try to convince the city to reopen it,” Jensen says. “If it passed they would have enough funding, not to repair the pool, but to operate the pool.”

Carroll says a lot has to be determined before making a final decision, and all of the options are under review.

“I sat down with our legal attorney, and he spent 10 minutes reading through the documents. We’re still trying to digest,” Carroll says. “I’m trying to schedule a meeting right now between the city and the school district to go through this, see where everybody thinks we are on it, and what we need to go forward.”

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