Pool programs suspending Monday with levy failure

In the wake of the levy failure, most activities at Oak Harbor’s John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool will come to a halt Monday.

The replacement levy came in just below the supermajority of 60 percent required to pass.

For returning North Whidbey Park and Recreation Commissioner Shane Hoffmire, who defeated two challengers with more than 48 percent of the vote, the path forward is clear: “The City of Oak Harbor must partner with the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District to keep this asset open for and on behalf of the people of our community.”

“With the city’s help we could come much closer to a self-supporting facility, while offering much more for our residents.”

The City of Oak Harbor owns the land on which the pool sits. In 1981, after the district passed a $1.7-million bond to build the pool, the two entities signed a cooperative agreement.

In that agreement, the city said the district was responsible for the maintenance and operations of the building, but, in the event that the district ever lost funding, the city could opt to assume responsibility.

That agreement expired in 2006 and wasn’t renewed.

Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns said Friday he wasn’t aware of that agreement and hadn’t seen it.

Severns said he did meet with district Executive Director Steve McCaslin, Hoffmire and newly-elected Commissioner Sean Merrill on Thursday.

While the city doesn’t have the budget to take over maintenance and operations, Severns said that the city is open to discussing future partnerships and plans.

“We didn’t leave with a finite ‘no,’” Severns said. “We did urge the three to explore all options.”

He suggested looking at the pool in Jefferson County that operates under a coalition of partners, or consider having a conversation with the Oak Harbor Boys and Girls Club, which is looking for a new location.

There are no plans on the table and any proposal would have to be presented to the city council for approval, Severns said.

North Whidbey Park and Recreation District replacement levy would have accounted for more than half of its annual revenue.

After the third round of counts Thursday afternoon, the levy was at 58.62 percent approval with 4,200 voters in favor of the renewal versus 2,965 against. Voter turnout for the overall election was 40.64 percent.

Last month, the district board of commissioners approved a plan to temporarily suspend all pool programs if the levy failed.

Beginning Monday, Executive Director Steve McCaslin said he will begin suspending aquatic activities such as open swim, lap swim and swim lessons.

The district sent an email to pool patrons Thursday evening thanking them for their support and highlighting the changes.

“Operating an aquatic facility such as John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool is very costly,” the email read. “Without the financial support generated by our Maintenance and Operations Levy, fiscally responsible pricing would be too cost prohibitive to the vast majority of our patrons.

“We will investigate every viable option for reopening the facility, possibly with limited operations, and we will be actively developing non-aquatic programs to serve the community.”

McCaslin said some programs, like kayaking and scuba diving classes, may be able to come back because the pool won’t need to be heated and the district doesn’t supply staff for it.

“Clover Valley Dog Park and Ballfields will remain accessible to the community for the immediate future,” the email also stated. “Visitors should expect to see the possible removal of the portable toilet and trash receptacles; water for the area will also be turned off. Please plan accordingly when visiting the dog park and ballfields.”

The board is meeting 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Oak Harbor pool for a budget workshop.

The earliest the district can run the levy again is November 2018.

Voters Tuesday also elected Patricia Hardin to the board with more than 58 percent approval over Dan Brown, Merrill ran unopposed.

There are no more ballots left to count, according to the Island County Elections Office website. A next count is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17 in case any other strays come in.

The election results will be certified Nov. 28.

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