Council OKs pool funds

The prospects for a new pool in Sonoma Valley got a little better Monday when the Sonoma City Council voted 3-0 to enter into an agreement with project sponsors to provide $25,000 a year for the next 10 years.

The money is to be used for scholarships and will be given to the Sonoma Valley Health and Recreation Association, also known as Sonoma Splash, once the pool opens.

The group announced Monday it has secured enough funding to close escrow on the old Paul's Resort site, on Verano Avenue, across from Maxwell Farms Regional Park. The site is just outside the city limits of Sonoma.

Rachel Hundley, candidate for City Council, asked how many scholarships the funds would annually provide for children. City Manager Carol Giovanatto said that question couldn't be answered yet because the program has yet to be developed, but clarified that the scholarships would not only be available to children, but also to adults.

The group had initially asked for $500,000 from the city to assist in the property purchase, and the council had directed staff and the city attorney to draft necessary documents to secure a potential loan of General Fund Reserve dollars. But because of the complexities involving participation by a public entity in the financing of a real estate transaction located outside the corporate city limits, the decision was made to seek outside legal counsel to review draft documents submitted by SVHRA.

As a result of the review by Special Counsel Randy Kenworthy, additional safeguards were put into draft documents to protect public funds and to assure that the "spirit" of the funding agreement met legal parameters. But after meeting with Paul Favaro, president of SVHRA, and Michael Woods, their attorney, a revised approach was drafted which eliminated city participation in the complicated property purchase, but left $250,000 in for scholarships.

The funds will be set aside in a City Swim Trust Fund within the city+s accounting structure, guaranteeing that the money will be available even if there are future budget cuts. If the pool has not opened within seven years, the funding agreement becomes void.

In addition to approving the agreements, the only question the council had to resolve was whether applicants for scholarships had to live within the city limits.

"Every one of the organizations in our Tier One funding structure serve people outside the city limits," said Councilmember Steve Barbose. Tier Ones are organizations that meet various parks and recreation needs that the city does not provide. He added that people who live in the Valley spend money in the city, adding to sales tax. He said he supported offering scholarships to them.

The other two council members agreed. Both Ken Brown and Mayor Tom Rouse had to recuse themselves from the vote, having served on the SVHRA board.

"Once SVHRA has closed escrow on the property, it will go into the second phase of its capital campaign and engage in site design and preliminary permitting activities," said Woods. The total cost of the pool is expected to be between $10 million and $12 million.

A community pool in Sonoma was once located at Sonoma Valley High School, paid for by donations from residents. It was removed in 2005 and has not been replaced.

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