At Monday’s Dallas council meeting, Councilor Micky Garus suggested that the community consider closing its aquatic center, putting roughly $400,000 a year into public safety officers for Dallas police and fire, essentially eliminating the need for a safety utility fee.
A similar idea was tossed out at a Dallas Budget Committee meeting in spring 2016. That time, the suggestion was to pull the general fund money that goes to help operate the aquatic center to help pay for police, fire and streets.
The response from the community was clear — at least on the Opinion pages of the Itemizer-Observer — as letters to the editor streamed in opposing closing the Dallas Aquatic Center. Letters came from across the region — Salem, Monmouth, Independence — as well as from Dallas residents, all praising the value of the center.
While the 2016 attempt was not pitched precisely to close the center, by pulling $400,000 from the operating budget, closure would have likely been the end result of that action.
Unlike the last time the aquatic center seemed to be on the chopping block, this time Garus is suggesting a ballot measure in the May election. Meanwhile, Garus says the council should approve the utility fee of about $5 a month on water bills to hire two new police officers and two new fire personnel.
It was a surprise move. Garus called it a “curve ball.”
While we can appreciate the councilor looking for other ways to support more police and fire personnel, we do not see closing the aquatic center as the answer.
In all the community feedback, we heard a lot of alternate solutions proposed to pay for additional safety officers — fix PERS, bring in recreational pot — we never once heard anyone suggest closing the pool to fund the positions.
The item could not be readied on time for the November election — Dallas is looking to May at the earliest. That gives Dallas residents plenty of time to let the council know how they feel about the pool, police and fire, and if one should be sacrificed to pay for the others.
We think Dallas should have their safety and swim, too. That may mean paying about $5 through their water bill each month. We know it sounds like a bad commercial from the ’80s, but that really is about the price of a cup of coffee (these days).