Berkeley Divided on Measure to Fund Public Pool Renovations

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Berkeley aquatics will be swimming in money if voters decide to support a measure that would impose a special tax to fund renovations to the city's four public pools in the June 8 special election.

If passed, Measure C will incur $22.5 million in bonds to pay for pool maintenance and aquatics programs and create a special tax to repay the bonds. After 30 years, the first part of the special tax will be discontinued.

Bond funds will be used to replace the indoor warm water pool at Berkeley High School, renovate pools at Willard Middle School and West Campus Junior High School and construct an all-purpose pool at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School

Margot Reed, president of the Berkeley Parent-Teacher Association Council, said the public pools have become a "mainstay for middle school kids," creating enriching recreational and educational opportunities.

"Measure C ... enables the parents and the kids to have a safe, reliable aquatics option," said Reed, whose daughter swims for the Barracudas, Berkeley's youth swim team. "If we don't do anything differently ... we will continue to see the deterioration of our pools and pool closures."

According to Scott Ferris, recreation and youth services manager, if the measure is not passed, Willard pool will close on July 1, followed by the warm water pool when the high school remodels next year.

Ferris said the warm water pool, which is maintained at 92 degrees Fahrenheit, is home to various exercise, therapeutic and youth programs.

"The warm water pool is an incredibly precious resource for senior citizens and the disabled community," said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. "A lot of doctors recommend their patients go there for medical purposes."

But residents who are against the measure say there are more cost-effective alternatives the city has not considered.

Berkeley resident Marie Bowman, who formerly worked on various city commissions and is a member of the Berkeleyans Against Soaring TAxes (BASTA) campaign, said the city could rehabilitate the pools at a third of the costs.

"New construction is extremely expensive," Bowman said. "It makes a lot more sense to financially rehab the pools. It's a cost-effective, real, positive, green solution ... so that everyone can keep swimming."

She added that the city should consider alternatives that support the city's parks and other recreational services, such as the Regional Sports Fields at Gilman Street.

Despite residents' financial concerns, Worthington said the city has been in "decent shape" compared to other cities and the state.

"In general, Berkeley's had a pretty stable financial situation," he said. "It is more challenging now with the economy continuing to be bad, but this is an urgent necessity to preserve the services that we've had for decades."

He added that if the measure is not passed, other community pools will have a greater concentration of use, but he also added that there is no comparable pool to make up for the loss of the warm pool.

Still, Bowman said she is voting "no" to get a better measure that will support recreation for the community as a whole.

"We want to look at the big picture and look at everybody's needs," she said. "It's just an unfortunate time, but the good news is that there are options."

Tags: BERKELEY CITY COUNCIL, MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MIDDLE SCHOOL, BERKELEY HIGH SCHOOL, WEST CAMPUS JUNIOR HIGH, WILLARD MIDDLE SCHOOL


Stephanie Baer is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected]



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