Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

By Pat Caldwell

An issue that grabbed the local city political stage in January is on its way to a solution after the new domestic hot water heaters were recently installed at the Sam-O Swim Center.

Along with the installation of the new domestic hot water heaters, a damaged gasket for the boiler was also replaced during the upgrade project.

The Sam-O Swim renovation issue flared in January after questions were raised by Baker City Councilor Rogers Coles and Baker County YMCA director Heidi Dalton regarding whether the city was committed to infrastructure repairs. One of the central issues revolved around uncertainty regarding which entity - the city or the Baker County YMCA - was responsible for a grant-writing process to generate funds for the Sam-O Swim Center renovation project.

The new domestic water heaters were installed by Valley Metal and Heating. The city utilized funds from its General Fund to fuel the project.

While Baker City Manager Mike Kee lauded the work of city workers and Valley Metal and Heating, he pointed out that the project is still not finished.

"Probably the easy half of the project is done," he said. "But it is an important part of the project. If you can't take showers the pool can't be open."

While the broken gasket on the center's boiler was fixed, the mechanism must be replaced in the future Kee said.

"We need to do something with it. We know eventually the boiler will need to be replaced or upgraded or something so we are putting a plan together right now to find the most economically feasible way to replace that," Kee said.

While the need to replace the boiler is evident, the money to complete such an endeavor is not guaranteed, though Kee said city officials are working on that specific problem now.

"Hopefully it will be a combination of city money and grants. In order to write grants, though, we need to have a plan and we need to have somewhat of a budget and know what the cost is," he said.

Kee said the work at Sam-O Swim Center underscores the notion that maintenance issues for city structures remain a lingering challenge.

"We will never be done with maintenance at Sam-O or any other building for that matter. I keep reminding the folks that put the budget together that it (maintenance) is ongoing," he said.