Crammed into a meeting room at the Northshore Utility District, some 50 to 60 supporters of the Carole Ann Wald Pool learned recently a roughly $25,000 engineering assessment may be the key to the future of the facility in St. Edward State Park.
Representing the state parks and recreation commission, Tom Oliva said that future is, at present, “in a holding pattern.” According to Oliva, state officials don’t want to hunt for a new pool operator until they better understand the physical condition of the pool building.
For the second time in less than a year, the Wald pool was closed Dec. 31 when the second operator in less than a year pulled out of its contract to run the facility because of financial concerns.
With the pool attracting some avid and vocal supporters, Kenmore officials called a public meeting on the pool issue the evening of March 10.
Oliva said the pool’s most recent operator, Mill Creek’s West Coast Aquatics, reported financial losses of $90,000 over the eight months the group was involved with the pool.
In 2009, previous operator Northwest Centers of Seattle reported losses of $50,000 a year.
“We need to have a facility assessment,” Oliva said. “Let’s find out what’s going on here.”
In the past, a state spokesperson said officials planned on releasing a request for proposals to operate the pool. But contending few potential operators will come forward without a clear picture of the facility’s condition, Oliva said he doesn’t expect the state to make any move until completing an assessment study.
So when will such a study be undertaken? Oliva said it’s impossible to know, that the parks and recreation commission doesn’t have the money to complete a study itself. Led by Mayor David Baker, Kenmore officials have asked the area’s state legislators to find up to $75,000 for a facilities study in the upcoming Washington budget.
Including Baker, no one knows for sure when or if that might happen.
The state budget was supposed to be largely finalized March 11. However, because of ongoing budget talks, Washington’s legislature was expected to go into an extra session on March 15.
While Kenmore officials called the March 10 public meeting, they have been criticized for never making what was supposed to have been a $25,000 contribution to pool operations. Baker and others have said the city needed a formal agreement with pool operators before they legally could donate any money. That was an agreement they say they tried and failed to obtain. When it was suggested the city could now use those dollars to fund the engineering assessment, Baker said Kenmore would still a formal agreement of some kind before they could legally donate the money.
Besides the Wald pool, the general area also has seen the shuttering of Bothell’s Ruiz-Costie/Northshore Pool at the end of last summer. During the Wald meeting, Bothell City Councilman Bill Evans said “box” pools such as Wald and Ruiz-Costie may no longer be financially viable. Evans contended pools with added amenities such as slides, seem more feasible.
Further, Evans added that in 2006 there were serious discussions about constructing just such a pool as a regional facility, with the most likely funding source being a bond sale — which would need voter approval — by the Northshore Parks and Recreation Service Area (NPRSA). That taxing authority was originally put together to fund construction of the Northshore Senior Center.
A Bothell representative to the NPRSA, Evans said the group was studying about a $25 million facility. Plans died as the economy began to crash and funding sources for further feasibility studies dried up.
As the debate over the future of the pool continues, St. Edward Park Ranger Mohammad Mostafavinassab said the pool is being minimally maintained to avoid problems with stagnant water and to cut any start-up costs that might be incurred by a new operator.