Uintah School District can use a recreational levy to fund the district swimming pool and must, by law, allow reasonable access to the public to use the pool, according to a state official.

Since October 1989, the Uintah District Swimming Pool has been an on-again, off-again proposition. That was when Vernal City and Uintah County turned their portion of the swimming pool over to Uintah School District.After that, the pool was closed to public swimming from October to March. The reason for the closure was the lack of recreation dollars. However, in the 1989-90 fiscal year, the district collected $295,500 in recreation property taxes. Some of the recreation money ($30,000) was used for coal in the Vernal Middle School and Vernal Junior High, and $20,301 was used to pay a custodian at the Vernal Junior High. The swimming pool was then reopened from March to June and closed during the summer months.

The public has not been sure if funding a swimming pool is the job of Uintah School District or Uintah County. Assistant attorney general John S. McAllister, in a letter to James R. Moss, former state superintendent of public instruction, gave his opinion:

Question: May a school district use proceeds of a recreation levy to purchase, construct and equip facilities for athletics and other recreational activities?

Answer: Yes, a school district is clearly authorized to purchase, construct and equip facilities for public athletic and recreational purposes. The recreational levy authorized by the law is clearly to be used to equip, maintain and operate such facilities.

The law requires a school district to allow reasonable access to the public to use the facility at reasonable times and for appropriate purposes in view of the nature of the program and facility concerned.

So the next question is, does this opinion hold any weight?

Many districts in the state levy a recreation tax. But few feel public recreation is their responsibility. Gene Anfinson, Uintah School Board member, feels the Uintah School District should provide public swimming as well as education swim time. The rest of the Uintah School Board members do not feel that public recreation is or should be their responsibility.

The Uintah District Swimming Pool was to open to the public this week, with no guarantees on the length of time that the public will be allowed access.