In recent months, I have watched the controversy over the Lake County Aquatic Center. In managing a complex system like a swimming pool, a technique known as asset management is a useful method of scheduling maintenance, repair and replacement.
A swimming pool contains multiple systems that contribute to its function. These systems include heating, filtration, disinfection, the structural condition of the pool and the building that houses the pool. Each of the contributing systems has both an initial value and an expected life. Some of the systems last longer than others. In the case of our pool, I will take the liberty to assign some dummy numbers to this situation:
— Heating system: 100 dummy dollars, expected life 25 years.
— Filtration system: 100 dummy dollars, expected life 15 years.
— Disinfection system: 50 dummy dollars, expected life 25 years.
— Pool structure: 500 dummy dollars, expected life 75 years.
— Building: 500 dummy dollars, expected life 100 years
The expected life is the life of the element, after which it is expected to need major rehabilitation or replacement. Each of these expected lifespans can be extended with proper maintenance — that’s how Leadville’s 150-year-old Victorian houses still exist. The pool is being closed after a series of information releases on the condition of the pool — none of which would seemingly justify the abandonment of a facility likely worth $10-15 million.
Let’s presume the root cause of the pool’s closure is in fact a failure in the pool structure system. By closing the pool based on the pool structure system, the county chooses to abandon all the other systems that remain functional. The pool structure is worth 500 dummy dollars — abandon that — but what about the still functional other 750 dummy dollars worth of infrastructure left? Perhaps they’re half worn out; that’s still 375 dummy dollars that the county is throwing away. There are also rumors that the 375 dummy dollars would be backfilled through some sort of grant application for a new facility. In reality, those 375 dummy dollars are millions of real dollars. And the grant money is not a gift from Santa Claus, but millions of real dollars either taxed or borrowed from the state or federal government.
The pool was built in 1975 after the citizens of Lake County voted to tax themselves to build the facility. It was not built with grants from the state, or the feds, but rather by hardworking people who largely worked to mine molybdenum out of the ground. We owe it to their memory, and to the few that are still around Leadville, to properly maintain and operate the facility.
The pool audit and the tsunami of information generated by county staff all point to repair and rehabilitation costs in the neighborhood of 3-4 million dollars spread out over a decade. Yet faced with this, county staff chose to shutter and bulldoze a facility worth four or five times that. The saddest part is that the 2020 audit document is a fine example of asset management strategy, complete with concrete recommendations to bring the pool back to life, yet it is being improperly used to justify the unjustifiable.
I regularly swim in a pool in Lakewood that was built in 1960. At Colorado State University, the Glenn Morris Fieldhouse holds a pool that was built in 1924. Both are in wonderful condition. To suggest ours is depreciated out and ready for the boneyard or to use it as a chip in some sort of grant writing poker game is a multi-million dollar scandal that the Lake County taxpayers, both resident and non-resident, should not tolerate.