Northwest NEWS

December 9, 2002

Business

Will the Northshore Pool stay open?
Negotiation in the works may give the Bothell pool new life  
By Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Writer


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 Bothell pool.
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 Wayte Pools.