The Pearl Street Pool’s Future Remains Uncertain as Discussion Returns to the Centralia City Council


The repair and reopening of the Pearl Street Pool was once again a topic of discussion at last Tuesday’s city council meeting in Centralia.

Joyce Hoerling, a Save The Outdoor Pool (STOP) organizer working to reopen the pool, spoke during the public comment session of the meeting to state her case to try to get the pool open to the public again.

“It doesn’t have to be a fancy pool. We don’t need a big pool house. We just want a clean, safe and affordable place for kids to swim,” Hoerling said.

She added that if the pool was reopened the city could partner with United Way of Lewis County’s planned United Learning Center to help get kids swim lessons. Hoerling said she believes knowing how to swim is an essential skill. She said an open pool and swimming lessons would help lower the rate of accidental child drownings.

“We are really concerned about the kids not learning to swim, and multiple generations in this town have learned to swim at that pool. We are really excited to keep it going,” Hoerling said.

STOP has now been working for more than a decade to get the pool reopened after it was shut down due to budget constraints and maintenance issues.

Despite not having succeeded yet, Hoerling added that donations STOP has received are still saved and available to use. She asked the council if they might consider using money from the recent sale of the former Armory Hills Golf Course land near Seminary Hill to help fund a new pool restoration project.

Former City Council Member Joyce Barnes also spoke up on the issue, stating she believes local taxpayers would support funding the pool’s reopening.

“This city is getting bigger. It’s getting better. It’s bringing a different clientele and group of people here and they deserve to have more and they will pay for more. Property values and everything is going up, you just need to give them the opportunity,” Barnes said.

Centralia’s Community Development Director Emil Pierson explained that the city’s current predicament revolving around the pool was that the repairs and renovations necessary to reopen are simply too expensive.

“Even with the pool closed, it’s still costing the city money. In 2015, the city spent about $4,000 on utilities and $1,000 on chemicals. That occurs constantly, anytime we don’t drain the pool during the summer we have to add chemicals so we don’t create a mosquito habitat,” Pierson said.

In past attempts to reopen the pool, both the city and STOP applied for a number of grants, and while some were awarded, it wasn’t enough to actually complete past revitalization attempts, so the grants have been lost.

“If you receive grants and you cannot finish the complete project as promised, the funds just go away,” Pierson said.

Around the same time, the city proposed a plan to revitalize the pool, but once again budget issues limited what was actually accomplished. Still, a splash pad was added to the property in 2017. What progress has been accomplished Pierson contributed to the work being done by STOP.

“They’ve had this vision and we’ve worked together to make this happen. That Memorial Plaza with the splash pad and playground have been wildly successful,” Pierson said.

The current cost of reopening the pool is still unknown and the last assessments were conducted before the pandemic. STOP conducted two property assessments, the first in March of 2018 by ORB Architects, which specializes in evaluating aquatic facilities. They estimated that just renovating the pool would cost $1.7 million, while both the pool and bathhouse additions would be $2.2 million and replacing and updating the entire facility would have cost $2.9 to $3.4 million.

STOP also hired AHBL, a civil and structural engineering firm, to look into the structural integrity of the Pearl Street Pool building in October 2018. According to that evaluation, the building was adequate for gravity loading but they recommended a full seismic upgrade before reopening to the public. They added that additional architectural, mechanical and electrical repairs could be needed. 

Then, in 2019, the city did its own assessment of redeveloping the pool house and refurbishing the pool. Improvements to the building were estimated to be $3.8 million at the time while a new building would have been $4 million. Yearly pool maintenance and staff salary were estimated to be around $92,000. The city council at the time decided against putting that proposal on the ballot.

“Since 2019 to 2022, we’re in a holding pattern until we receive direction from the council on what you would like us to do,” Pierson said.

He added that whatever the costs may have been back in 2019, the city will likely have to pay more in both construction costs, maintenance and salaries.

The council directed Pierson to come back with a new cost analysis of what it will take to reopen the pool now and what the new maintenance and staff salary costs will be so they can begin the process of applying for grants again. Once the assessments are obtained, the council will readdress the issue at future meetings.