An Editorial Report: The Loyalton Pool
The Loyalton Pool is an emotional issue far more than a political one, and standard "reporting" simply won’t catch that emotional content except to say "the Loyalton Pool is an emotional issue."
The story isn’t in the outcome; the Board didn’t put the necessary measures on the ballot to allow for taxation to support the Loyalton pool. That should have been a foregone conclusion. Don Yegge stood before the Board and explained the financial situation, and he was, this observer thought, courageous and pragmatic: the numbers don’t line up with the times, the pool won’t work. It is simply too expensive for Loyalton or the county to support. A modest, three month, outdoor pool might be a possibility some day, but the current pool simply isn’t supportable. That’s not the story.
The story is what the pool means to different people in our community.
A Pool Called Hope
To some, the pool, like Ocho the steam locomotive, represents hope. That is no small thing. In times like these, when the economy is in the dumper and governance has lost all credibility, hope is all that keeps people going. Keeping going is the name of the game.
Imagine the Loyalton City pool filled with warm water and laughing children, their colorful swim suits rippling the crystal blue water, their laughter and shouts ringing from the high roof. Imagine our older folk settling into the water, letting the buoyancy take the load off their joints for a little while, giving them a chance for some life extending exercise. The pool might help keep kids off the street in the summer, it would give them a chance to learn to swim, and really might save a life.
The pool means all that, and more. It would draw people in from the rest of the valley, and the county. They would bring activity, and badly needed money, to Loyalton. If someone ever did think of moving to Loyalton, the pool would have made Loyalton more of a community center, the "city" of Sierra County.
A Pool Called Duplicitous
It is fairly clear that some of the people who brought the pool issue forward did so knowing it had no chance. For them it was an opportunity to test members of the board, a kind of "loyalty" test. Whoever supports the pool supports Loyalton, and economic growth, and a vibrant community. Whoever votes against it is against us, against Loyalton, against growth. Parading the images of splashing children and pain free oldsters in order to discredit a local supervisor is not only short sighted, it’s simply mean. Still, people will do that, and if you think I mean you, well, you know better than I do what your motivations were.
A Pool Called Hopeless
Some of the people in the room, like some of the people in the Valley and many people in the county, don’t go to Loyalton, don’t much care for what they see as a dismal little town with its brooding, vacant hotel, and aren’t going to pay a dime towards the pool. No one present at the meeting said that, but it isn’t hard to find people who will. Once you pass the point in the Valley and turn toward Sierraville, it’s easier to go to Truckee, or to Portola, where there are full service stores. On the one hand, we should rise up as a community and damn those people for spending money out of county while our cousins in Loyalton are struggling to keep their doors open. On the other hand, people from Loyalton go to Reno to shop. As much as we all might want to support local businesses, we have to pinch pennies, and sometimes we need things you just can’t find in Loyalton. No one has to go to hell for not want to financially contribute to the east Valley.
This is the emotional backdrop against which the Supervisors had to play.
The session began with Gary Sheldon, representing the Loyalton City Council, presenting a letter to the board asking them to approach the people for taxes to support the pool.
Elia Miles supports the pool for older people and young people. She notes the fee would only be $1.50 a day.
Martha from the Library said, let the people vote.
Brooks Mitchell, let the people vote.
Mike Filippini: he regretted being the voice of discouragement, but the business plan for the pool is a poor one, and the voters were not likely to pass the tax.
Candace Cubal, strongly supports the pool.
Bob Macey, Friends of Loyalton Pool, let the people vote.
Russell Roswood, there are already too many taxes, and already too many more important things that need to be done.
Karen Rickman, would the Friends of the Pool pay for county staff costs? They would.
Don Yegge, Friends of Loyalton Pool, the majority of people he’s heard from would support it.
Tim Butler: too expensive.
And, then Supervisor Bill Nunes took the floor. He handed out a chart (below).
The chart shows how, under the current business plan, the amount could grow to $202 dollars. The landfill would be forced to close half way through, he noted, and county solid waste costs will soar. There are problems with water, and with other infrastructure. He spoke quickly, making point after point. The pool would be good for kids, he said, but what would be best is to avoid saddling them with debt. In 20 years, he said, it would be the children paying on the debt. He did not say, but could have, just as they are still paying for a hospital they no longer even have.
That presentation knocked the energy from the discussion, and it began to quickly unwind.
Eventually, Pat Whitley made a motion to support the tax for the pool. It was not seconded. She couldn’t believe it, and wanted to discuss it further anyway. Chair Goicoechea was patient, waiting a moment for people to realize it was over, then insisted there was no second to the motion, and it died.
That spared the supervisors from making a difficult, politically dangerous, but still very necessary vote to turn down the opportunity to further tax the people of the county, or to waste dollars asking them about it. Which is as it should be.
It should be said that the pool idea is still not dead. It still might be possible to put in a modest above ground pool, open part of the year.