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Agencies should cooperate to move foward at the pool | Editorial

Just as we thought the Vashon Park District was beginning to come out from under the fields debacle, the agency finds itself in another tough situation. The Vashon Pool, operated by the park district but located at the high school, is now in need of a fix that could cost tens of thousands of dollars. It’s not clear who is responsible for the problem, and now neither the school district nor the park district, which is hurting for money, wants to take the bulk of the responsibility for paying for it.

It would be a shame if this conflict led to the pool shutting its doors for the summer. In a small town, a community pool is an invaluable asset. On Vashon, it’s the only pool open to the public. Countless children have learned to swim there, and playing at the pool is a healthy activity for kids during the dog days of summer. A local swim team holds practices there, and swimming is an excellent activity for people to stay fit into their later years.

So far, we’re not impressed with how the park board has handled this situation. At times they have not acknowledged their part in the construction error that led to the problem. Commissioners have refused to come to the table with the school district to seek an agreement, and one board member seemed to suggest that the schools cover the cost of the fix simply because they have more money, an idea we disagree with.

The school district, on the other hand, has now put forward a reasonable proposal, offering that the two agencies split the cost of fixing the pool. This seems fair, especially considering a hold harmless clause in the park district’s contract with the school district. And as one school board member noted, it’s not the school district’s mission to provide recreational opportunities on Vashon, but to educate. The schools are not in great financial shape either, and the Vashon Schools Foundation is still in the midst of raising thousands of dollars to sustain quality educational programs on the island.

When the park district took the pool from King County in 2010, some were wary, as public pools tend to cost money rather than make money. As the district got into financial trouble at the Vashon Fields, the financial burden of the pool was even more apparent. And now that an unexpected cost has come up, the district has new fields but no reserve fund to dip into.

We’ve heard the park district discuss its financial obligation to the community, an important consideration, but board members should consider their boarder community commitment as well. The park district should take the school district up on its offer. Doing so would be a decent deal for the parks, which could pay over time, would maintain the relationship between the two districts, avoid litigation and would get the pool open about two weeks later than normal. We also hope the agency now has even more reason to build healthy emergency reserves.

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