The Park and Recreation Commission held a public input session on the Warwick pool situation prior to their regular meeting on Thursday, October 9. In anticipation of this meeting, the Board of AAA had met on Monday, October 6 to finalize our position regarding Warwick.
At the start of the Commission’s public input session, Laura Durham from the City staff gave a short overview of the Warwick situation. Essentially, the City wanted to close Warwick as of the summer of 2015 due to safety issues and ask the Commission for a recommendation on a long-term solution.
Bill then gave AAA’s position on Warwick. He emphasized that this position had been developed in cooperation with the Warwick Village Citizens Association (WVCA) and the Tenant and Workers United organization. The Executive Director of the Tenant and Workers United had given AAA approval to express their support for the AAA position.
The AAA position was:
- We agree with the closure of the Warwick pool in the summer of 2015 for safety reasons as long as a new pool will be built in 2016.
- We recommend that the City use $1.5 million to fund the new pool (actually two – main pool and kiddie pool). There will be no private sector funds from AAA since VTS is reluctant to commit to any funding (more on that in a bit). The $ 1.5 million will be Warwick’s prorated share of the $ 5 million set aside in 2018 (just used sooner).
- We will not take a position on the building other than to say that the bathhouse needs rehabbing. The meeting room and the second floor are not aquatics related so we have no opinion about them.
- VTS has told us that any decision on Warwick is now delayed until the November meeting of their Board of Trustees. However they have advised us that their financial situation isn’t as good as it has been in the past and they do not anticipate providing any financial support to Warwick. We will write a letter to the Dean expressing our disappointment, thanking them for their consideration, and recommending that any further communications be between them and the City. However we will suggest that they consider working with the City to either transfer the land to the City (first option) or reduce the annual lease to $1 (second option). Neither has any significant impact on VTS’ finances.
- We will also send a letter to the City saying basically the same thing, but pointing out that the City should take the necessary steps to make sure that any lease reduction (if it happens) offsets some of the operating costs.
The Commission chair particularly expressed her appreciation for the amount of coordination that AAA had done in developing its position.
After Bill finished, Tom Williamson of the WVCA spoke in support of a new pool as well. He emphasized the community involvement with the pool and how much it’s continued existence was essential to the “neighborhood” feeling in Warwick and the surrounding communities.
There were no other speakers at the meeting, but the Chair read written comments submitted by Jeanne Garner (AAA member and Chair of the Chinquapin Advisory Council). Jeanne also supported the basics of the AAA position.
The Commission then went on to discuss what position they should take regarding Warwick. All Commission members seemed to be in agreement that a new pool was needed at Warwick. One member recommended that all the aquatics funding be moved up so decisions can be made sooner rather than later on all of the proposed new pool sites. She also said that a new pool at Warwick could be used as a success story to help build momentum for the other pools. Another member expressed concern over what the current users would do while the new pool was being built. He suggested that consideration be given to reaching out to the using community to encourage them to use other pools while waiting for the opening of the new pool.
After discussing the situation, the Commission voted to support the following position. They will send a letter to the City Council to this effect:
- Warwick will be closed for the summer of 2015 due to safety concerns.
- The City needs to replace the existing pools at Warwick with similar sized pools that have more aquatic features.
- The Commission is asking the Council to move up $ 3 million in aquatics funding from FY 2018 to FY 2016 so that a new pool can be built at Warwick. (Just a reminder – FY 2016 starts July 1, 2015)
- The new pool probably won’t cost that much, but they wanted to make sure it would be done.
- They also recommended that the new pool have some play features (sprays, etc.) to make it a more fun location. The little kiddie pool may become a small sprayground for the little ones to play in.
- They will also recommend moving the other $ 2 million in aquatics funding from 2018 to 2017 to move things along on the other pools (Council had set aside $ 5 million in 2018 for unnamed aquatic projects – but meant to cover Warwick, Old Town, and a Therapy pool at Lee).
- They want an outreach program to the community during the time that the pool is closed. Explore ways for kids to get to other pools until the new pool opens.
It looks like we will end up having one basic recommendation being presented to the City staff by four different entities: The Park and Recreation Commission, AAA, WVCA, and the Tenant and Workers United.
After the Warwick portion of the meeting was over, AAA and WVCA met with Del Pepper outside of the meeting room. Del expressed her support for the aquatics program again and Warwick in particular. We also discussed our goal of having one, unified recommendation for Council to consider regarding Warwick. Del felt that was a much better approach than presenting multiple options for Council to sort through. So far, AAA, WVCA, the Tenants and Workers United, and it appears the Park and Recreation Commission are all in agreement that a new pool is needed there as soon as possible. We’ll have to wait to see what the City recommends, but we are hopeful that they will follow the recommendations of these groups.