The North Whidbey Pool, Park and Recreation District commissioners agreed at their monthly meeting Tuesday, Oct. 17, to reopen John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool Monday, Nov. 2.
The Board of Commissioners also discussed maintenance issues, set a date for a budget workshop, discussed recreation programs and renewed a contract with Barron Heating for boiler work.
The “soft opening,” according to Facilities Director Jay Cochran, depends on whether she can confirm staffing (lifeguards and a supervisor) for that date and clear it with the county health board.
The pool closed July 25 in compliance with Gov. Jay Inslee’s coronavirus guidelines.
The commissioners also agreed to raise the fee to $5, up from $3.50, per half-hour reserved session.
Oak Harbor citizen Misty Martin addressed the commissioners at the Zoom meeting Tuesday, urging them to reopen the pool.
“I have been a part of the community for 14 years, and I love the pool,” Martin said.
“It makes me really sad I can’t go swimming before or after work.”
She said she traveled to Anacortes when the pool was previously shut down, but the commute was inconvenient when trying to swim in the early morning before work.
She also said the alternative of swimming in Puget Sound early in the morning is “scary.”
“I don’t feel safe swimming in the ocean alone in the morning, and it’s cold,” she said.
“I actually cried when you opened it and closed it again (after a levy failure),” she added.
Commissioner Juli Brooks-Leete noted that Martin was part of the foundation that was instrumental in getting the pool reopened in 2018 after it closed because of a levy failure in 2017.
As the commissioners discussed reopening the pool Tuesday, board chairman Chris Wiegenstein said, “I want to make sure everyone is clear that if we do open, it only takes one incident with the roof or one incident with the boiler and we will have to close.
“That being said, I want it open.
“The community needs to have some form of ‘old normalcy.’ What a great statement if we could get people back out swimming.”
Because of COVID guidelines, the facility can house only 50 people at a time, and only two (three if in the same family) can use each lane for lap swimming, Cochran said.
The limited capacity also limits income, Cochran said, and the need to follow safety protocols adds expense.
The fee increase will help address these problems because the levy doesn’t cover all costs, she said.
“If people want to come use the facility, they will have to pay a compensatory fee,” commissioner Sean Merrill said. “I think people will be willing to do that.”
Merrill said it is important that the public knows that while the pool was closed, “we haven’t been sitting on our hands.”
During the shutdown, a handful of needed repairs was completed, including plumbing, lighting and hot tub issues. Upgrades to the dog park were also finished.
The commissioners praised the work of the staff.
“No one will ever know how far we have come and what we have accomplished,” Brooks-Leete said. “The people in that building…are on the path of greatness.”
Several major issues remain, including repairing or replacing the roof and replacing the boiler, Cochran said.
She is preparing a budget for 2021.
“We have to have clear and concise ways to come up with the costs and income,” Cochran said. She added that the public needs to be aware that the levy doesn’t cover all costs and the patrons “have to help when they come in the door.”
The commissioners scheduled a budget workshop for 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9.
Cochran said the initial kickball program, which recently ended, was a success and “we had a lot of happy kids.”
Kickball was offered to first- through fourth-graders; the goal is to expand it to K-8 next year.
Cochran also outlined for the board a plan for a youth basketball program.
At September’s board meeting, the commissioners balked at renewing its contract with Barron because of a steep increase in its bid.
Barron revised its quote, and Cochran suggested the board accept it.
“It would be detrimental if we went in another direction,” she said.
Cochran noted that Barron’s familiarity with the balky boiler was an asset.
“We are lucky we have someone that knows the history; our boiler is a dinosaur,” Cochran said.