Slow down on pool plan
No one seemed to remember during Monday night’s City Council meeting exactly how long the City of Sonoma has been trying to build a municipal swimming pool, although there was general consensus it’s been about a decade and that is way too long.
A brief historical review confirms the pool campaign does not extend as far back as the time Pomo villages occupied the Valley of the Moon, and there is no historical record of a swimming pool committee during the rule of Gen. Mariano Vallejo.
But beginning in 1956, the pages of this newspaper were full of reports on the progress of a campaign to build a swimming pool at Sonoma Valley High School. That campaign might be worth reviewing by City Council members who appeared impatiently hellbent this week on a pool decision, and set themselves a deadline of March 5 to see any measurable progress.
The original high school pool campaign was a citywide effort involving fundraising initiatives by civic organizations, community groups and even students at the high school. With a plan in place, it took 10 years to raise the money and build the 25-yard pool, which opened in August, 1966 at a cost of $79,000, the equivalent of about $560,000 in today’s dollars. The community’s contribution was $50,000, or the current equivalent of about $350,000. The school district contributed the balance.
That successful campaign was significantly simplified by cheaper construction costs and the choice of a high school site. The current pool initiative is complicated by what is viewed as a necessary partnership between the school district and the city to build a facility that can serve the community as well as the schools. It is a forgone conclusion that the school district would like to build a new pool on the site of the old one, which was abandoned and filled in 2005. Whether that site could accommodate an expanded facility, and whether access and parking for the general public could be sandwiched on top of existing school traffic, are unanswered questions.
A 2007 proposal from the CommonBond Foundation for a $6 million, multi-pool swim center behind the high school never made practical sense and its analysis of operating costs and traffic impacts wasn’t realistic.
A 2008 study done by the school district concluded it would cost about $2.8 million to build a 25-yard pool, and $100,000 a year to heat it.
Now an ad hoc citizen committee, including City Council members, is trying to assemble the necessary information to make an informed decision on where and what kind of a pool should be built, with how much money. The so-called CUSP committee, includes local consultant and open-water swimmer Paul Favaro, who told the council Monday that CUSP is hoping to shape a city-community-school district partnership that will settle on a pool plan as soon as possible, guided by a facility with the best revenue potential rather than the lowest price tag. That might, and probably should, require a professional feasibility study.
We think the council should take a deep breath, slow down, and let CUSP do its thing. March 5 may be a premature decision point.