Update From the Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics

Dear AAA membership:

This was a sad day for AAA, for children who do not yet know how to swim, and for all in Alexandria who value recreation centers, parks and other amenities that make our city a desirable place to live and raise a family. Today on behalf of the board, AAA Board Chair Bill Rivers delivered a letter to the City providing the required 60-day notice to withdraw from the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that formalized our public-private partnership to build the new 50-meter pool at Chinquapin, and to terminate our working relationship with the City on this project.

We have worked closely with the City for over four years to improve the aquatics infrastructure of the community and to bring to fruition a new pool at Chinquapin. By a conservative estimate, the volunteer community has spent over 11,000 hours of its time to help the City. Over $800,000 of volunteer time and City funds has been spent on a project that was arbitrarily and abruptly eliminated by the City this year.

In the letter, the Board cited two primary reasons for cancellation of the MOU: first, the action by the City and the City Council to remove all funding specifically identified for the proposed pool at Chinquapin from the current budget; second, the failure by the City to communicate and cooperate with its partner as required in the MOU.

The MOU was jointly signed by the two parties in August 2016. Yet, just three months later, the City Manager acted without any consultation with AAA to stop any further action on the pool project. The City Manager subsequently removed the pool funding from the following budget and the City Council agreed with him. This lack of cooperation with an established partner is even more surprising given that the City is advocating an expanded use of partnerships to help bridge its funding difficulties.

As part of dissolving the partnership, we have requested that the City return the $5,000 that AAA had previously transferred to the City for the project and that the City discontinue using AAA and its representatives in any of its promotional advertising for the City.

Finally, I’m personally very sad to announce that Bill Rivers has resigned from the AAA board effective May 30, 2017. He has led our Board since its inception with an abundance of energy, problem-solving skills, patience, professionalism, collegiality, good humor, and delicious pumpkin bread at every meeting. We will miss him.

The rest of the board will remain in place for the immediate future, and until there is a clearer picture of whether the blue ribbon panel appointed by the city council will consider the future of the pool in its deliberations. We will continue to keep you apprised of new information as we receive it.

Thank you for your continued support. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Melynda Wilcox, Vice-Chair
Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics

AAA presents Financing Options on Chinquapin to the City Council

Dear Mayor, Vice Mayor, and Members of Council,

Per your suggestions at our recent meetings, we have met with the City Manager regarding the new pool for Chinquapin, but his position is that he has given the Council the information that you need to make a decision. Possible additional capital projects (including the pool) are listed in the supplemental CIP and possible ways to raise the funds for them are also listed. We have also listened to your concerns, your desire to see a pool if possible, and your discussions on the budget and its financing. Based upon all of the above, we propose three paths for you to take to fund a pool:

1) Authorize the borrowing of $15 million over a two year period (2018 and 2019). As with financing a home, the City’s borrowing of the $15 million has to be paid over a period of time – not all at once. Our rough calculations show that borrowing $8 million in 2018 at 2.5 % interest (the City actually borrowed at 2.1% interest this past year) repaid over a 10 year period would require a payment of about $900,000 per year. $8 million is enough to start construction for the $15 million pool; then another $7 million would need to be borrowed in 2019 to complete it. Again at a $900,000 payment per year, this would require a total of $1.8 million to be paid in the second year and beyond. This amount of $1.8 million per year would require a tax increase of about 0.5 cents over the loan’s life. This approach allows pool construction to start in 2018 and be completed in 2019.

It would leave room for you to do other supplemental projects within the maximum tax rate increase you have advertised – such as the Affordable Housing initiative or school spending. Of course, it would have to be factored in when determining the debt ratio, but that is what the City does every year.

2) Establish a 2 cent tax increase and pay for the pool in two years. This should generate enough to cover the pool funding and keeping that 2 cent increase for the balance of the 10 year CIP would provide another almost $60 million for schools, affordable housing, etc.

3) Defer appropriate capital projects already in the funded CIP for two years from the list of projects attached. Please note that the list doesn’t imply that a project is not important – just whether it needs to be done in 2018 or 2019. Also note that none of the projects affect schools, sewers, Metro or projects like the West End Transitway (that has alternative funding possibilities).

You all have unanimously told us that you appreciate the value of the proposed pool, but some said that there didn’t seem to be a way to fund it. The above provides you with a path within established City guidelines. Our recommendation would be the first one since it has the least impact on the current budget and on taxes, but any of the three will solve the problem.

Please note that we didn’t get into possible revenue sources such as personal property taxes; restaurant taxes; hotel taxes; etc. Those could mitigate some of the tax increase on real estate, but we did not have the appropriate information available to us to comment on them.

Please do the right thing so that all Alexandria kids can learn how to swim.

We would be happy to discuss these approaches if you would like.

Thanks,
Bill Rivers
Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics

New Survey Supports the Chinquapin Pool!

Strong Public Support for 50 Meter Pool at Chinquapin
Recent survey shows over 60% of Alexandria residents support a new 50 meter pool at Chinquapin Recreation Center. According to a recent public opinion survey commissioned by Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics (AAA), roughly two-thirds of Alexandria residents favor the City of Alexandria investing $20 million on a new 50 meter pool at Chinquapin Rec Center.

In particular, Alexandrians believe a new pool is needed to expand access for local children to learn to swim and to allow residents of all ages to use the facility for exercise, rehabilitation and recreational uses.

Local residents also appreciate the economic benefits a new facility will bring to the community. With a state of the art 50 meter pool in Alexandria, local swim teams finally will have the ability to host meets – ranging from events for regional youth swim clubs to local high school teams to adult Masters swim teams from the East Coast. By attracting more visitors to Alexandria, restaurants, hotels and other local businesses will see an influx of customers.

“The survey results show that the Alexandria community is committed to improving our aquatics infrastructure,” said Bill Rivers, chair of Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics’ Board of Directors. “I am encouraged to see that local residents acknowledge the importance of creating an opportunity for every child in Alexandria to learn to swim and the benefits a new facility will provide to our local economy.”

In 2016 Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics signed a formal partnership agreement with the City to help coordinate the public-private efforts to improve Alexandria’s aquatics facilities. A specific area of focus is the design and construction of a new pool at Chinquapin. With Alexandria’s City Council set to approve the FY 2018 budget in early May, AAA wants the 50 meter pool fully funded so construction can begin in 2018.

Alexandrians want to see youth swim lessons incorporated into the educational curriculum – something that is not feasible given the programming constraints at the existing aquatics facilities. If every school age child in Alexandria is to have the opportunity to learn to swim, more pool space is required.

“This survey demonstrates that Alexandria strongly supports our local leaders committing to the construction of a new pool at Chinquapin,” said Carolyn Griglione, a member of the AAA Board of Directors. “I know there are many competing priorities in the upcoming budget but a new pool at Chinquapin is an investment in a healthy and safe future. Approximately 7,500 children in Alexandria do not know how to swim, and we need to ensure that our community affords everyone an opportunity to learn a skill that can save their life.”

Additionally, Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics has commissioned a separate study to identify ways the private sector can contribute to the construction and ongoing operation of a 50 meter pool at Chinquapin. A key goal of that study is to ensure the facility has a steady and sustainable revenue stream, thus becoming less reliant on taxpayer dollars.

Specific findings from the March 22-March 24 survey include:
• 84% support giving more kids the opportunity to learn to swim
• 77% believe swim lessons must be part of the educational curriculum in Alexandria
• 77% believe a new pool will generate revenue for the city, economic benefits for restaurants/hotels
• 75% want to see more programs at local pools such as water aerobics and recreational lap swimming.

The study was sponsored by Advocates for Alexandria Aquatics and conducted by Hudson Pacific. The results are based on a survey of 300 adults who indicated they reside within the city limits of the City of Alexandria. Surveys were conducted in English between March 22 and 24, 2017 and averaged 7 minutes in length.

Fieldwork was conducted via telephone by Survey Sampling, Inc. using a random-digit dial sampling methodology. The survey was designed to be representative of the City of Alexandria adult population by gender, age, education and race. The targets were based on 2015 population estimates from the United States Census Bureau.