PUEBLO WEST — This time of year there is more snow than water in the Pueblo West public swimming pool. The facility was built more than 40 years ago when the population of the community was closer to 1,500 people.
"We currently have an aging, outdoor only pool that can only be used certain times of the year, it certainly needs some significant repair and also has limits in capacity as well," said Pueblo West Metro District Manager Nina Vetter.
Voters said "yes" to two ballot measures asking for tax money to help pay for a new aquatics center to replace it. In 2016, metro district voters approved a 10 year "time out" from the growth limits imposed by Colorado's Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) Amendment specifically dedicating the revenue that would have been refunded into funding the new aquatics center. Additionally, a roughly $1 million contribution to the new facility was includes in Pueblo County's Ballot Question 1A in that same election cycle.
"When I ran for office, the number one need, and we just had our 50 Fest our here, was the aquatics center," said Matt Smith, Vice President of the Pueblo West Metro District Board of Directors. "So, it's not changing. It's time to build this thing as quickly as we can."
The district received a grant from the State Conservation Trust to help pay for the project. Pueblo County also pays the district a community impact grant from excise taxes collected on retail marijuana sales.
The board budgeted $430,000 for next year to help get the process started. Vetter said a final plan is still in the works, however some of the main requirements are for a facility that can be used year round, by anyone of any age or ability.
"We need to first really identify what we would like in the facility before we can come up with a better estimate of what it's going to cost us."
The district may still look to partner with an outside business or government entity to expand the scale of the aquatics center.
There is no pool at Pueblo West High School and many parents drive their students to Pueblo County High School for swimming practice and meets. Smith said many of his constituents want a pool that's closer to home.
"Pueblo West deserves this, this is happening, it's just a matter of when and how," Smith said. "But we're making this happen, it's coming to fruition, we're not kicking this can anymore. We're going to build an aquatics center and Pueblo West is going to have what they need."
An aquatics committee has met during the course of the past year to narrow down the amenities to include in the final design. Smith expects to get an update from that committee in about two weeks.