Payson in Decline
What Really Happened with Taylor Pool?
By Lori Thompson
Taylor Pool which was built in 1985 had been serving the families of Payson for many years and while yes, the pool is older, there are many pools throughout Arizona which are older but are still serving their communities well.
A town pool is a multi-generational quality of life issue. With drowning being the number one cause of accidental death for children under 4, the importance of swimming lessons cannot be overstated. In addition, a pool offers a tremendous benefit to our seniors through water exercise and lap swim, and competitive programs offer a positive fun activity for our youth and employment at the pool offers quality jobs.
The Town was operating Taylor Pool and was serving the community in the summer of 2019. The only reason given for not opening the pool in 2020 was Covid-19. The Taylor Pool filtration system was operational in late 2020, and plans were being made in February of 2021 to open the facility without any major renovations.
At the February 23, 2021 Council meeting a list of possible reasons why the Taylor pool could not open was presented to the Council.  The majority of the items had not changed since the pool was operational in 2019 and would not prevent the pool from opening. Taylor pool could be brought up to code, and equipment used to do this, such as an accessible pool lift, could be used at the new pool if it is built. Instead of finding solutions or listening to what the community wanted the administration and the majority of the council refused to consider professional and community input.
Information from the February 23 Council meeting presentation on shutting down Taylor Pool was a very “just say no” negative attitude with a lot of why we can’t do what the community wants and needs verses how can we get it done. Again, feels like it is driven by an outside organization. The presentation with notes listed is attached. 
As shown by the MHA survey and the majority of the comments at the town hall event on July 19, 2021, the residents of Payson want a pool for young and old alike. Yes, we need to plan and support a future pool but that is many years away, and with recent actions by the town it is getting even farther away.
The Town has continued to shorten the season at Taylor Pool over the years. The Town claims that it can’t run the season for longer due to the use of lifeguards that are in high school. While lifeguarding is a good job for a high school student, and offers an alternative to fast food jobs, there are others that could benefit from these quality jobs. There are community college students who could be hired as lifeguards, we have nursing, fire science, EMT and other students at our local college that would make great lifeguards. We also have active and capable adults and seniors that could be lifeguards and swim instructors as is done in other communities.
The idea of using the Tonto Apache Gym Pool is not a feasible option,. The town has been working since early 2021 to allow the community to use this small pool to no avail. Mayor Tom Morrissey has not been able to facilitate any agreement for the use of the Tonto Pool or any pool in the community. The pool is also very small and is already heavily used by gym members. The staff at the pool have repeatedly said the pool is not large enough to allow any additional community use. They will only allow one swim teacher with very limited hours. As of the end of July there are no swim lessons being held at the Tonto Pool. They have repeatedly said they have no agreement with the town. The very small number of children who were able to take lessons there this summer paid almost $300 for a session of 10 lessons. The pool also has no lane lines, pool markings or starting blocks which make the use by lap swimmers or swim teams very difficult.
An agenda item at the October 28 meeting the Town proposed the possibility of spending $30,000 for the purpose of providing an update for Council discussion and possible direction on the scope of service to undertake the conceptual design and preliminary cost estimate for a year-round indoor facility. In this same agenda item, it was noted “Staff was informed by the RCEA, following the September 23, 2021 meeting, that they (RCEA) are reluctant to move forward with funding the design of community center with the Town as potential partner as the Council’s decision to study an indoor pool facility. 
They kept stating that the pool was unsafe to open, yet they could show no proof of that in early February 2021 when they were hiring employees to open the pool and there was no information that the pool was unsafe. A copy of a public records request asking for a copy of the Health Department inspections of the pool from 2014 to present is attached.  The email stating that they did not have the records is also attached.  That the town had no records of Health Department Inspections for the pool over the last eight years is extremely negligent, and if they were destroyed someone needs to be held accountable as maintaining these inspections is a basic operational necessity.
On December 8 Mr. Smith said on the KMOG Forum show, “All that would need to be done to operate the pool would be to turn on the breakers,”
The Town had already proceeded with removing the water, equipment, and deck items prior to the Dec. 8th radio show and the Dec. 9th council meeting. There was an item on the agenda for the Dec. 9th meeting to accept $5,000 from Friends of Rim Country Aquatics for a professional evaluation by a licensed pool contractor. The evaluation would have provided transparency and factual information. If the evaluation had been completed there is a good chance the community would have had a pool this summer and for years to come. Due to demolition the Town had completed prior to the Dec. 9 council meeting it made an evaluation or repairs to Taylor Pool nearly impossible. 
After hearing the incorrect information that was being said by town staff on the radio that morning, and getting a phone call that what town staff was saying on the radio was incorrect, my husband and I decided to walk our dog at Rumsey and check out the pool. When we arrived at the pool the were no town employees present. No Town employees were doing any work, no one went in or out of the locked pool fence. A town employee did arrive after we were there and we did talk and primarily agreed about what was taking place with the pool.
Friends of Rim Country Aquatics was formed in response to the outpouring of support for a community pool in Payson following the July 19, 2021 community meeting. A petition to allow a professional evaluation paid for by Friends of Rim Country Aquatics gathered hundreds of signatures in very short time. We have always encouraged everyone to work together with the Town and other groups in a positive way to do what is best for the residents of Payson and we hope that we will be allowed to continue to do so.
The treatment and attacks of members of the Payson community who have come forward and brought their concerns to the town administration and certain council members has been very disheartening. There were feelings by members of the community that town officials again refused to listen or even consider their concerns. Members of the Parks and Recreation Commission who would voice concerns about what was happening at the parks would be attacked by council members and town officials, including being thrown off and attempting to be thrown off the commission. I would hope that the Town would encourage residents to come forward and when they do they would be treated in a more respectful way.
We encourage the Town to work with the Friends of Rim Country Aquatics to help provide lifesaving swim lessons and aquatics programs and provide input for a new pool. Starting in May of this year the Friends of Rim Country Aquatics has started offering very limited swim lessons to the community through the Rim Country Swim Academy including offering swim scholarships to families who need assistance. The town has not been willing to work with Friends of Rim Country Aquatics.
Our goal has always been to do what is best for the residents of Payson and we have worked hard to help make things better for the community and its children.
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- Town Council Meeting Feb. 23, 2021 link: https://payson.granicus.com/MinutesViewer.php?view_id=17&clip_id=2507
- Town Presentation link: http://savepaysonaz.com/data/documents/323Taylor_Pool.pdf
- Town Council Meeting Sept. 23, 2021link: https://payson.granicus.com/MinutesViewer.php?view_id=17&clip_id=2566
- Request link: http://savepaysonaz.com/data/documents/32aRequest.pdf
- Town Response link: http://savepaysonaz.com/data/documents/Public-Records-Request-Form.pdf
- Town Council Meeting Dec. 9, 2021 link: https://payson.granicus.com/MinutesViewer.php?view_id=17&clip_id=2581