If you listened to Mayor Llanez give his report at the March 15 meeting of the Los Banos City council you would have heard his call to action to Los Banos citizens. If not, you can watch it on YouTube since all meetings are broadcast live and archived.

Mayor Llanez said, “You did hear tonight that we have a budget surplus and so that’s a great problem for the city to have. And so hopefully people will come forward with some ideas. I hope people will bring them forward. That’s the only way we’re going to know.”

For the past 20 years, citizens of Los Banos have voiced many ideas about how to improve the city. Some have said they would like to see a Costco, Olive Garden and an Applebee’s come to town. I’ve heard comments about wanting a new hospital, airport and a standalone campus of Merced College with its own football, basketball and baseball teams. Unfortunately, the city has little or no control over bringing many things on that wish-list to reality.

One item the city can bring into being is right up there on top of the list — a community swimming pool.

With nearly 50,000 residents— many of which can’t afford to purchase a home and those who can, can’t afford their own pool — a community pool will help people cool off when it’s 110 degrees week after week in the summertime A community pool would also provide added safety for local children since they can learn to swim there and have fun in the water away from dangerous open irrigation canals.

Currently Pacheco High has a swimming pool, but it has no shallow end for beginning swimmers, and with it being shared with Los Banos High, there are few openings available for public use.

Through the 1980s there was a swimming pool next to the Merced County Library on Seventh Street which the school district built. It was shared with the city of Los Banos and many residents cooled off in the water there on the weekends. However, the lifespan of that pool ended and no funding was found to renovate or replace it.

The construction of a community swimming pool is just part of the equation. The other is maintenance and operation of the pool once it’s built.

It is estimated that a community swimming pool could cost more than $250,000 a year to maintain and operate depending on the size. That money must come from somewhere.

It would be unrealistic to believe that the city could charge citizens enough each year in user fees to offset that cost. Therefore, a budgeted amount for annual maintenance and operation funding must be established.

There are many in town who have begun playing pickle ball as a form of recreation. My understanding is that there are two types of pickle ball players. Those who show up to just hit the ball, no matter where it ends up and those who are super competitive and want to win at all cost. Regardless where one stands, what could be better than working up a huge sweat playing pickle ball and then showering and jumping into a swimming pool to cool off?

The city has already budgeted for new pickle ball courts, so let’s see if we can combine them into the same area with a pool.

Let’s seriously consider the idea of a swimming pool that would benefit the majority of Los Banos citizens.

From a safety standpoint, it has also been mentioned many times in the past, that the city’s one and only ladder fire truck is very old and could, at some point, stop working. A new ladder truck can cost upward of $1.2 million.

So, mayor, how flush are we?

Gene Lieb