Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
A group of students at Montana State University-Northern have organized a forum Tuesday, Dec. 1, to discuss issues with a focus on the plan to convert the university swimming pool to a wellness center. “It’s mostly about the pool, but any topic will be welcome,” said Garret Briere, who spearheaded setting up the forum with fellow Northern student Loretta Thompson. The pool has been a major issue in the last few months. It was closed in 2006, and plans have been laid to to remodel the space into a wellness center. Students and faculty have said the figures cited in support of closing the pool Chancellor Frank Trocki has cited figures put out by Northern in 2006 saying it would cost nearly $170,000 a year to operate are inaccurate. Citing previous costs of operating the pool earlier this decade, supporters of the pool say it would likely cost much less. Trocki, who was not available for comment this morning, has said he, and the university, stand behind the cost estimate. A member of Trocki’s staff said his office has not received an invitation to the forum. Part of the plan to convert the space includes having the university foundation raise $400,000 to use as matching funds to access a $400,000 grant submitted by Klabzuba Oil & Gas to build a wellness center at the university. In a flyer inviting people to the forum, Briere and Thompson wrote that they don’t believe reopening the pool is a “dead issue,” as Trocki has said. “We are confident that the pool on campus has a place in our community, and many people agree that one facility cannot meet all the demands in our community,” they wrote. “In the Armory Gymnasium we have a beautiful pool area, with built in seating and handicap access, the possibilities are endless, so why is this so easy to make a dead issue?’” Briere said Monday that everyone is welcome to attend the forum, which starts at 6 p.m. in the Student Union Building Ballroom. He said he also is inviting the members of the Havre City Council. Allen “Woody” Woodwick, who chairs the Council, said Briere brought him an invitation. Due to a scheduling conflict, Woodwick said, he will be unable to attend the forum, but he will notify the other council members of the invitation. Briere said that he knows the city Has been having problems funding the operation of its pool as expenses increased, a dispute between the city and the Hill County government led to the city filing a lawsuit against the county demanding it live up to a 1974 agreement that the county would pay one-third of the cost of operating the pool. The Hill County government has said it cannot afford to pay that much, and that the 1974 agreement is invalid because it does not meet legal requirements. The county has offered to negotiate a new agreement. Supporters of reopening the university pool have said having just one swimming pool is not enough for a community this size. Briere said he wants both facilities to be open, adding that he thinks the university’s pool, which includes benches and bleachers, is a better facility. “It would be awesome if we could get the city and university working together to cut costs on both sides,” he said. Briere will moderate the forum, which also will offer free refreshments including pizza, cookies and drinks. He said he wants everyone to have the opportunity to speak, and expects he will limit comments to three or four minutes per person. Briere said, depending on how many people speak, he expects the forum to last between one and two hours.