From the February 2002 Idaho Observer:

The Concrete pool: A Building Inspector Horror Story

The editorial objective of this edition of The Idaho Observer is intentionally obvious: We want the bureaucrats themselves to see how injurious and absurd their policies have become. We also want them to see how frustrating it is for thinking people to occupy the same planet with them. It's not easy being forced to watch your friends, family members and the country you love die because the laws have been set up to protect the self-serving bureaucrats. The event below is true. It happened in the small northwest Washington town of Concrete a few years ago.

By Terry O'Donnell

We moved to Concrete in the winter of 1978 while our children were just about to enter school. Concrete High School had a very large outdoor heated swimming pool, which was used by the locals all summer long.

Concrete was proud of its pool and the school system gave local kids swimming lessons.

A few years after we moved there, someone got an idea about enclosing the swimming pool so the town could make use of the pool all year round. Concrete passed a municipal bond and the pool did get covered. The residents of Concrete got to swim all year round -- for awhile.

Built to code

The school system hired a licensed and bonded structural engineer to design the building to cover the huge swimming pool. Next they obtained the proper required permits from the county and state. Next, they hired a licensed and bonded contractor to build the swimming pool cover to their strict building codes.

Best of all, for the health and safety of the children, it was thoroughly inspected and approved by their highly qualified building inspector.

For a short, time all was well. Then the experts who approved the final inspection of this very expensive building noticed they had a little problem. Moisture. The state licensed and bonded experts built a wooden building over a heated swimming pool and forgot to consider the moisture issue.

Dry rot set in. It appears that some hired expert forgot to install a vapor barrier in the walls and ceiling.

Back to the drawing board. They brought in all of their building experts, all highly educated with official titles to prove their authority and wisdom.

The appropriately titled state licensed experts found a solution to the dry rot dilemma. Their solution was to install, at some hefty additional expense, two very large exhaust fans. The idea was to pull the moisture outside the building.

I don't recall the time frame here, but it was not very long after all the “experts” went home. They had to close the pool, and our wonderful large swimming pool never opened again.

The Concrete refrigerator

I guess it takes a school dropout to understand that when you build a wooden structure over a heated swimming pool, you will have to deal with condensation. If you use huge fans to pull the moisture saturated air out of a building that is sitting over a heated body of water, you just created a huge counter productive refrigerator.

If you create a low-pressure area over a large body of a given liquid like H2O, this increases the evaporation rate, which in turn removes latent heat, which we lowly school dropouts call -- in highly technical terms -- refrigeration.

Refrigeration, plus a large body of heated water, equals heating and water treatment bills that went off the chart. That killed the kids' swimming pool forever. The school system could no longer afford to keep the pool open. They closed it and it never opened again as a swimming pool.

The abandoned pool, once the pride of this small community, sat empty for years and was of no use to anyone. No one knew what to do. The experts, having been handsomely paid to ruin Concrete's pool, were never heard from again.

Just what do you do with a building that no one can use? I seem to remember it was a school janitor, who said, “fill the damn thing with dirt.”

The experts filled heeded the janitor's advice and filled the hole with pea gravel. Then they poured a concrete slab over the top of this once beautiful swimming pool and built classrooms on it. Just think about how many thousands of dollars were spent just on pea gravel!

So, all the state-licensed and bonded contractors got tons of money, the licensed and bonded engineers got lots of money, the county's building inspectors got lots of money and their retirement. The kids got shafted and taxpayers paid a couple $million for pea gravel and a concrete slab.

No one that I heard of was fired, or even spanked for the nightmare they created.

After who knows how many years of paying taxes through their nose for this mess, the local people finally paid off the bond. Now the children, for their health and safety, get to learn how to swim, or sink as the case may be, in the Skagit River during their yearly flood season.

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