The city of Ontario gave the indoor pool to the Ontario Recreation District last year for rehabilitation. (Malheur Enterprise/File)

ONTARIO - The new Ontario pool designs are in, and they range from $2.5 to $4.5 million. The three designs show Ontario will be getting a pool, but not necessarily an aquatic center.

“If our studies show that the community really wants a pool, that should be our main focus, not lockers, not front desks, not additional office space. It’s got to be the pool,” said Andrew Maeda, Ontario Recreation District director.

The district’s architecture firm finished three requested plans for consideration - a seasonal outdoor pool, with the option of adding a dome cover; a pool without the roof but with the existing pillars, with the option of adding a removable wall; and a pool with a roof. The last option requires a lot of maintenance, and for the district to tear down and build a new structure.

The architecture firm Design West has been awarded a contract for up to $85,000 to draw up the plans for the pool. The recreation district will review the plans Wednesday, July 15 at 7 p.m. and residents can join virtually through this link.

Maeda has spent the last year at the district assessing the closed Ontario Aquatic Center’s damage, and it’s a lot.

Half of the 22 return water lines are broken, the walls don’t follow code and the roofs - there are two, one stacked on top of the other - are rotted.

The entire structure has to be replaced. Facing a legacy of three other failed pool rehabilitation projects and 30 years of deferred maintenance, Maeda is planning on just getting a pool to the people, regardless of bathrooms, lockers or walls.

Adding restrooms, locker rooms and office renovations could increase the cost by $300,000.

Yearly maintenance of an indoor pool is estimated at $500,000, more than twice the cost for an outdoor pool.

The district only gets $600,000 a year from its tax base, and the district has been saving that money for the pool project.

The district saved $400,000 from last year’s $720,000 budget to roll into next year’s, which, added to its revenue, gives the district $1.1 million.

That’s still probably not be enough to rebuild the aquatic center, which has been closed since 2013.

Previous estimates for fixing the aquatic center were $7 million in 2013 and $2.4 million in 2015.

John Stubstad, then of Andrews Seed Company, donated $500,000 to build the pool in 1983, and allocated another $300,000 to maintain it. Maeda doesn’t know where that $300,000 went, but year after year the center didn’t receive enough money from the city for proper upkeep, a 2006 report found.

Years of deferred maintenance finally forced the city to close the center.

Maeda doesn’t want to make the same mistake.

“My worst nightmare is, 20 years from now, this facility is closed again, because we did not plan to keep it open long term, we planned to get a beautiful facility short term, that we can’t afford,” said Maeda.

 News tip? Contact reporter Aidan McGloin at [email protected] or at 541-235-1005.

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