Bozeman Commissioners look at, discuss pool& rec study


BOZEMAN, Mont. - Bozeman Commissioners took a look at a year-long Aquatics Facility Feasibility Study during the Monday night meeting.

"The cities existing facilities are aging" said Ken Ballard, who helped conduct the study.

But during the presentation, Commissioner Chris Mehl raised concerns about possible response bias in the questionnaires sent to area residents.

He wasn't so sure that part of the study was valid. He said they paid $10,000 dollars to send questionnaires to folks in the county, but thinks the results aren't a true representation of what the community wants.

Commissioner Mehl said he researched the topic, and found experts say older people and women are most likely to respond to mail surveys- rather than a true cross-section of the demographic.

He said he brought those questions up several weeks ago, but never got a response.

Commissioner Mehl got heated with Ballard on the validity, and demanded answers.

"Because you didn't answer me, I don't know" Mehl said. "And so now you're going to come to me and say, 'I want to put up the next five slides and say twenty-six-point-two {percent} people think this and thirty-three-point people that. And from the examples we've just had, I have zero confidence in those numbers."

City Manager Chris Kukulski left during the meeting to call the CEO of the company that distributed the surveys. He said they'll work to check the validity of the mail survey and make sure the results have merit.

The study suggests four main options in moving forward, from renovating Bogert pool to building an entirely new rec center.

After the presentation, Bozeman citizens voiced concerns that a new rec center will put private facilities out of business.

"What would the impact be on the privately-owned recreation facilities?" asked Larry Aasheim, part owner of The Ridge Athletic Club. "It will be great." Commissioners said they simply don't have the funds to build a new facility.

"My mind was boggled by the expense" said Commissioner Carson Taylor.

Building a city-owned rec center would require a public vote, Commissioner Taylor said, and he didn't think it'd get approved.

They said they're most interested in renovations- specifically, figuring out what to do with Bogert pool.

"Now we have the capacity to have an informed discussion" said Mayor Sean Becker.

One aspect Mayor Becker talked about is the possibility of teaming up with the YMCA. The nonprofit plans to build an indoor pool and rec center on the northwest side of town.

The Commission said they are nowhere near a decision, but did accept the study and will move forward on figuring out the best option.