At last Tuesday’s Vashon Park District board meeting, nearly 50 members of the island’s swim community packed the Ober Park performance room to make the case (again) for covering the Vashon Pool.
The Seals swim team first presented the park district board with a proposal to cover the pool in November. The proposal indicated that the Seals team would fundraise the more than $85,000 needed to buy and install the pool bubble. At the time, the park district was in the middle of its budget process and board chair Karen Gardner expressed worry about the district’s financial picture. The cost to the Vashon Park District (VPD) was estimated at somewhere between $40,000 to $50,000 per year (4 percent of VPD’s total budget).
The Seals came back in February with another, refined proposal on which they worked with VPD’s own Aquatics Director Scott Bonney. Again, the board did not make a decision, this time citing the ongoing discussion with the Vashon Island School District about the annual fee VPD pays in exchange for use of the school district’s facilities.
Then, the park board asked for two more pool cover proposals to be presented. That is what happened at last Tuesday’s meeting. The two proposals outlined two scenarios: VPD covering the majority of pool maintenance and operating costs or the Seals covering the majority of costs. Between the two, there was only a $13,000 difference and the majority of VPD expenses were coming from staffing costs in order to keep lifeguards at the pool year-round. Island swimmers in attendance noted the willingness of many in the room to volunteer their time.
A decision was still not made and VPD board member Scott Harvey even compared the project to the board’s infamous VES Fields project that was steeped in controversy and ran over budget by more than $1 million.
There can be no comparison between the two projects and there is absolutely no reason why the park district board should continue its inaction on the subject. The park district has a private entity coming forward and offering to take on the most expensive part of the project. The Seals are willing to pay to purchase and install the pool bubble, as well as pay for the necessary upgrades that the pool needs (boiler, locker rooms, etc.) in an effort to provide their team and the community with an acceptable and accessible year-round pool.
The Seals are recognizing the financial situation of the park district and are offering to do all they can to provide what is, frankly, something the park district should be providing for the community. This is an extremely rare opportunity to create something that islanders have wanted and demanded for decades with little cost to VPD. No more excuses.