The Northshore Pool, scheduled for closure at year’s end, may live
again. With only 22 days to go before King County locks the pool facility
doors, a new proposal to keep it open has surfaced. The Northwest Center
has been in negotiation with King County to take over ownership of the
As part of a King County plan to save as much as $6.2 million of the $9.1
million needed to meet its 2003 park budget, the Northshore pool, along
with nine other County pools, will be closed and placed on “mothball
status” beginning Jan. 1, 2003, if no one steps forward to take
over the pool’s operation.
John Mautz, vice-president of Commercial Operations, has an offer on the
table that would transfer ownership of the Northshore Pool to the Northwest
Center, a non-profit organization based in Seattle. “We’re
working on finalizing the terms (this week),” he said. As part of
the proposal, the Northwest Center has asked the cities of Woodinville
and Bothell, as well as the Northshore School District, to contribute
a combined total of $100,000 to offset some of the projected $169,000
in operating costs expected for the first year. On Dec. 2, the Woodinville
City Council responded by voting to approve their share of the subsidy
of $25,000 or less per year for two years with a 4 percent increase in
2005. The City of Bothell will consider contributing up to $50,000 of
the pool’s operating subsidy annually for a maximum of three years
when the Council convenes on Dec. 16.
Craig Hopkins, Director of Student Services for the Northshore School
District said the school district continues to negotiate with the Northwest
Center. The proposal will go before the School Board for a first reading
on Tuesday, Dec. 10. To date the school district has expressed tentative
support, but has said they need more information and some unknowns, such
as pool rental charges, clarified. Hopkins said that if a deal can’t
be reached and the Northshore Pool closes as scheduled, the boys’
swim teams will use the St. Edwards Park Pool (in Kenmore) or the pool
at Northshore YMCA for the remainder of the year. “We’re confident
we have the season covered,” he said.
The Northwest Center dropped their request that the City of Kenmore participate
in the funding of the pool as Kenmore has begun to direct its attention
to the potential closure of the St. Edwards Park Pool.
The state now considers closing the pool June 30, 2003, which would leave
a void of aquatic programs for the Kenmore community if that happens.
City Manager Stephen Anderson said that the Kenmore City Council would
consider taking over operation of the St. Edwards Park Pool should the
closure occur. Regarding the Northshore Pool, Anderson said the City Council
would prefer to support a long-term solution rather than a short-term
one. “The Council supports a long-term solution and we’re
very happy that Bothell, Woodinville and the Northshore School District
support the short-term. The (City of Kenmore) will be focusing our analysis
on the St. Edwards Park Pool.”
According to Mautz, the Northwest Center will need municipal participation
for a successful operation and they hope for a long-term partnership with
the cities and school district. “Pools are not economically viable
on their own,” he explained. Should all parties agree and the transfer
goes through, current swim programs at the Northshore Pool will stay in
place. “We’re not planning to change services,” said
Mautz, “but simply to improve them.” He also stated that finalizing
the deal was contingent on the county conducting necessary repairs to
keep the pools code compliant and facility-safe.
The Northwest Center provides services throughout King County to 600 adults
and children with disabilities. Mautz explained how the organization would
benefit from pool ownership.
“This gives us an opportunity to better connect with municipalities
throughout King County.”
He said that the Northwest Center’s plan to operate multiple pools
(they also plan to take over ownership of the Mary Wayte Pool in Mercer
Island and the Redmond Pool) will allow for more cost efficiency by spreading
out management cost. “Our plan is much less expensive than the County.
We’re simply leaner. We’ll have less managers, but lifeguards
and instructors will stay at the same ratios.”
Pool operations, said Mautz, will allow the Northwest Center to connect
with folks in the King County area in a totally different way. “Most
people know us as the guys in the blue truck who pick up donated goods.
That’s an important part of what we do, but not all we do.”
In addition to their donation program, they provide a full range of social
programs and operate commercial business services. The Northshore Pool,
as well as the Mary Wayte and Redmond pools, will provide job opportunities
to people with disabilities. “There’s job creation potential
at the pools,” said Mautz. Employment in pool maintenance, mechanical
operation, administrative and reception positions will be available to
adults and young people with disabilities.
Besides providing jobs, the Northwest Center wants to offer the community
a wider choice of swim times. Said Mautz, “One of the things we’d
like to do is expand the hours.” Some of the pools currently under
King County’s operation hang out the ‘closed’ sign on
Sundays, and at other times, and Mautz said the Northwest Center hopes
to open the pools during the times the facilities were previously closed.
“We’ll be looking very carefully at that,” he said.
Brett Williams, head coach for WAVE Aquatics who set up a task force of
local pool user groups, said that he backs any proposal that will keep
the pool open. “Our goal is to keep the Northshore Pool open and
have our program continued. We’re in favor of anything that will
get that done.”
In the meantime, the countdown continues and King County will mothball
the pool facilities not transferred on New Year’s Day. After having
operated 15 local pools for 30 years, the County came to a decision to
transfer or mothball 10 County pools to help ease the crunch of a budget
crisis. Facing a $52 million budget shortfall for 2003, King County asked
local governments to take responsibility for the pools inside their corporate
boundaries. The County pledged to continue operating the five local pools
where they have jurisdiction, but would close or transfer ownership of
the remaining 10 pools, which include the Northshore, Redmond and Mary