Morton’s Warm Springs’ pools closed after failed pool work

Renovations at Morton’s Warm Springs were well overdue, but the construction nightmare that followed cost thousands and left an unfinished pool.|

Morton’s Warm Springs will be forced to curtail its business this summer after a contractor hired to resurface pools at the Glen Ellen property failed to do the job.

As a result, the resorts’ pools are closed indefinitely, according to the managing stewards and owners, Laurie Hobbs and Sean Wadsworth. The picnic grounds and other amenities remain open.

Summer is the lone period in which the century-old resort is allowed to operate for general business outside of a few weekends throughout the year.

Hobbs and Wadsworth had searched for a contractor since 2020 to resurface their pools, an overdue renovation at the 19-acre pool complex. Hobbs, Wadsworth and their group bought the pool complex in 2016 for $2 million.

And after many attempts to secure a contractor, they discovered a man on Yelp who appeared to check all the boxes for the job.

Hobbs and Wadsworth met the contractor, declining to give his name because they wanted to avoid any further contact. He told them he had 35 years of construction experience and offered grand proclamations for how the project would turn out, Hobbs said.

He also was under budget, Hobbs said.

Their ownership group, Warm Springs Stewards, signed a contract with the man for $35,000, with a security deposit of $17,500, Hobbs said. The construction was supposed to begin last fall in order to be ready for summer.

But the contractor never worked a day at the property, Hobbs said.

Instead, the man who signed the contract hired out a subcontractor, Hobbs said.

That person was a “disaster show,” Hobbs said.

She and Wadsworth “tried to go and get our money back from the guy, and he's like ‘I'm bankrupt. You don't understand.’ He took the money.”

“He said that he can't really work on a set schedule, that he needs to be able to be free to come and go as he needs to, without any kind of advanced scheduling,” Wadsworth said.

The man would not respond to them for days at a time, Hobbs and Wadsworth said. They sought a second opinion from past contracting jobs who told them, “You gotta fire this guy instantly ... Do not work with this person.”

“We kind of were already decided we were going to fire him,” Hobbs said, but “at that point, he had already partially (demolished) our pools and done all this damage that he wasn’t copping to.”

They considered litigation against the original contractor, but the man said he was bankrupt and had no money. They remain ambivalent about filing a police report.

“So we're out that money, we're out $17,500 ... We're already in a hole and our engine of actual any revenue coming in is stopped,” Hobbs said. “So it does not behoove us to get into a litigation process with somebody who doesn't have any money.”

They immediately began searching for a new contractor after firing their previous one, but that time the only bids they received were between $150,000 to $200,000, Hobbs said.

It is unclear when the Morton’s Warm Springs pools will reopen. The resort operates under a set of grandfathered rules for three months of the year, including restrictions on time and days.

“Until you change this use through the county, you can't do anything different,” Hobbs said. “You can't upgrade essential infrastructure. You can't build a new buildings. You can't add a hot tub that's permanent. You can't change your hours. You can't do anything, basically.”

Recreational visits to the property stretch back to the late 1800s, and the site boasted a full-fledged retreat by 1909, with a bathing pool, bathhouse and cottages.

Hobbs and Wadsworth kept the complex closed in 2020 amid financial and safety concerns during the first year of the pandemic.

Modernizing the property is costly, Hobbs said, because many parts of the facility would need to be brought up to code. The total cost to re-permit the facility could be hundreds of thousands of dollars on top of the money needed to surface the pools, Hobbs said.

“We've talked to some other people who've gone through this kind of thing before, and they're like, ‘It could take the next five to 10 years of your life. Are you sure you want to do this?’” Hobbs said. “That's why we can't say when (the pools are) going to be back open.”

Contact Chase Hunter at chase.hunter@sonomanews.com and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been revised to add more precise information about the partial closure of the resort as well as to correct the dollar figure for the resurfacing contract.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor