Maintenance costs at John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool are mounting to the tune of $400,000 or more for a new pool boiler and a metal roof that need replacing.
The North Whidbey Parks and Recreation District is also faced with replacing windows after one shattered as the 32-year-old pool building settles.
Meanwhile, the parks district has less than $100,000 in its reserve fund.
This news should be a wake-up call for everyone who wants to keep a public pool operating in Oak Harbor.
“No one else seems to be concerned, and I’m not sure why,” said pool district Commissioner Donna Sue Holly.
Actually, we join Holly in her concerns.
Raising user fees across the board may be necessary, but that cannot be the only long-term solution. It simply won’t raise enough.
Also, boosting the monthly fee for the private youth swim club members by as much as $45 — on top of what they already pay — still means their costs would remain a bargain compared to what many other private youth sports clubs charge participants.
In addition to essentially subsidizing the swim club, the parks district pays the salary and benefits for the team’s coach. Coach Dick Taylor was hired by the parks district in December 2014 with an annual salary base of $47,000 per year.
Taylor said he’s worked for many teams around the country, including a team in Colorado, that were supported, in part, by tax dollars. It’s fine and dandy that other facilities subsidize private swim clubs, but Oak Harbor’s pool has major needs that perhaps these other pools weren’t facing.
Regardless, the maintenance issues need to be placed above all other wants and needs.
Vanderzicht Pool is an asset to this community, and action should be taken now to ensure it’s around for many years to come.
There are other communities struggling to build public pools. It’s a costly endeavor, both to construct and to properly maintain.
We encourage community leaders to get together and discuss long-term solutions for the pool and put together a viable plan for the facility’s survival.
Perhaps it’s worth investigating whether the pool should be taken over by the Oak Harbor School District or the City of Oak Harbor.
While we recognize and appreciate the effort of North Whidbey Parks Board in trying to manage this complex facility, it’s been nothing but a struggle to even find people to serve on the volunteer parks commission.
At times, there’s also a lack of understanding of what it means to be a taxpayer-funded facility.
In response to the rate hike discussion, Commissioner Steve Hoffmire remarked, “I personally don’t want to see this posted for the public to see.”
Yes, the public needs to see — and discuss — and plan. That’s how things get fixed.