Dear Mayor Silberberg and members of the City Council:
We at the Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics (AAA) are writing you because a couple of very positive items have been given to you recently regarding aquatics in Alexandria. First, the feasibility study for the 50-meter pool at Chinquapin was presented to you last month. This study represents an important and exciting milestone in the process to build an aquatics facility that will accommodate the needs of our city’s residents. Second, the City Manager’s proposed budget for FY 2017 included the funds for the new Chinquapin facility spread over FY 2017 and FY 2018, as well as funding for other aquatics projects.
Regarding the cost estimate at Chinquapin, a year ago we were told that the cost of such a facility would total around $30 million, a significant increase over the amount allocated in the CIP, and the local press pronounced the pool “dead in the water.” Yet AAA believed strongly that a 50-meter pool could be built for substantially less than that, and we worked closely with city staff, requesting that the balance of the feasibility study contract be redefined to evaluate a whole host of lower-cost options.
We commend city staff, especially Laura Durham, for listening to our ideas and suggestions, and for developing a plan that directed the consultants to proceed not only with soil testing and geotechnical testing to more precisely estimate the contingency costs but also to consider some different types of structures.
We commend the Hughes Group for their willingness, after a contentious public meeting last year, to “go back to the drawing board” on their assumptions about what a new 50-meter pool could look like.
This is a model for how government should work. We now have a much clearer idea of how much the new 50-meter pool will cost, and we know that a pool can be built within the budgeted amount. Moreover, public support remains strong for such a pool. In a recently completed survey by the Alexandria Times, 76% of the respondents favored spending money on a new 50-meter pool at Chinquapin.
The City Manager’s proposed FY 2017 budget takes that new cost estimate and makes it a reality. It has initial funding of $4.5 million in FY 2017 for the design contract and $17.85 million in FY 2018 for the actual construction. We understand that the FY 2018 funding includes a $2.5 million private sector contribution and we are actively working to accomplish that.
As you move forward on the budget, AAA reiterates our support for the Chinquapin funding, as well as the funding proposed for the new pool at Warwick and other aquatic initiatives contained in the City Manager’s proposed budget.
Considerable progress has been made. Now it is time to keep up that momentum, and AAA will continue to be an active partner with the city in that process.
Chair, Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics