Dear Mr. Jinks:
I am writing to you on behalf of the Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics (AAA), an organization of private citizens that has been working with the City staff and the City Council for the last three years to improve the status of aquatics in Alexandria. As you are aware, three pools have been permanently closed in recent years; Warwick is scheduled to be closed this summer for safety reasons; and most of the other public pools are deteriorating. The City Council realized the need to reinvest in the infrastructure for aquatics and approved $23 million in long-range capital funds in both FY 2014 and FY 2015. You have concurred with that by including the same funds in the proposed FY 2016 budget.
We are now approaching the implementation stage for the improvements – which includes the new multipurpose 50-meter pool at Chinquapin. However, as you pointed out in your Budget Memo to Council, the cost estimate has increased over 50 percent from the original, funded estimates. The Hughes Group’s cost estimates came as a shock to our group, the swimming public, and I’m sure the City staff.
However rather than despair over the potential loss of a pool, AAA immediately embarked on a four-prong approach to help solve the financial crisis and make a multipurpose pool possible.
- First, we advocate looking at various different types of pool structures, which might be less expensive than the traditional brick and mortar used by the consultant.
- Second, we advocate a close examination of the cost estimates to determine if savings are attainable in the proposed brick and mortar structure.
- Third is to have our City Council discuss the potential of a joint venture with the Arlington County Commissioners. As has been pointed out in several articles, they have problems with their proposed Long Bridge aquatics facility; we have problems with our’s. Can we work together to build shared facilities that could benefit residents of both jurisdictions?
- Fourth is to raise private sector funds. City Council saw the wisdom of that early in the process and asked us to raise at least $2.5 million in private money for Chinquapin.
Throughout this whole process, we have worked closely with City staff and the City Council. We have been impressed by the dedication and desire of staff to meet the public’s needs in the best manner possible. We expect that close cooperation to continue and stand ready to help wherever needed.
But, we need your help to move forward. The Hughes Group is under contract to the City. We encourage you to take the following actions from a contractual perspective to better define the problems and the possible solutions:
- Exercise the remaining part of the contract that calls for specific testing that will help establish a better estimate of costs. This would involve soil testing, as well as anything else that the Hughes Group needs to more clearly establish projected costs.
- Modify the remaining task orders to request that the Hughes Group evaluate the costs of alternative structures compared to the proposed brick and mortar design.
- Modify the remaining task orders to request the Hughes Group identify cost savings that could be obtained by changing the design of the existing proposed structure. What could be excluded at what cost saving and what impact on functionality?
Our understanding is that the work so far has used up about 60% of the budgeted $500,000. We hope that the remaining money would be enough to do the above and allow the City, the City Council, and the general public to make a more informed decision.
We know that there has been questioning of the Hughes Group in the local media. We ourselves raised many of the same questions when they were selected to conduct the feasibility study. However, they now have a vested interest in saving their reputation and the benefit of an existing contract that can be used without a lengthy re-procurement process. If you deem them worthy, we request that the above actions be taken.
Again, we stand ready to help. Please let us know if there is anything that we can do.
Chair, Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics