$10 million bond for pool expansion on ballot

The Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation District has Proposition 1 on the ballot to renovate the Ray Williamson Pool.

The bond for $10 million would increase the number of lanes from six to eight, and deepen the pool to allow more different types of uses.

The district already has funds targeted to make the other improvements at the pool.

The bond funds would be repaid over 20 years. The cost would be about six cents per $1,000 valuation, or $60 a year on a $1 million home, or about $5 a month. Low-income homeowners, senior citizens and people with disabilities may be eligible for exemptions.

Those in favor of the bond say the 54-year-old pool needs updating. The pool was built in 1970 when half as many people lived on BI. Last summer 935 children were on waitlists. Space is limited, meaning teams like youth water polo have to use it from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Water exercise programs are at capacity.

More than 20 groups use the pool for everything from physical therapy to Washington State Ferries training. In the past few years, some community groups have looked into constructing other pools to meet the need, but have been unable to due to the costs. More equitable access to aquatics is needed for all ages and abilities for decades to come.

Those against the bond say Proposition 1 is misleading because it fails to mention $5.5 million is already planned to update the pool, without the $10 million needed to widen it and make it deeper. They say the bonds would only pay for improvements for specialty swim teams—less than 0.01% of BI’s population.

They say waitlists are long because more swim instructors are needed for Nakata Pool, built in 2021 and home to nearly all the programs with waitlists.

Parks Commissioner Dawn Janow said, “The whole project is a little confusing all around.”

She said some information being spread around is “murky” as funds can be shifted around, but the upgrades do not require the bond to pass. She also said while there have been waitlists this summer there are still open swim lesson spots for kids. And those lessons are in the Nakata pool.

However, the rebuttal in the voter’s pamphlet insists that not all of the needed pool improvements have funds that have already been approved by parks commissioners. Previously planned renovation costs are folded into the bond. Those improvements are for architectural, mechanical and safety upgrades to prevent further deterioration of the pool.

Minutes from the May 16 parks meeting say the bond was written the way it was to allow flexibility, in case unforeseen costs occur. It was brought up that the Nakata pool bond was passed then the actual cost was much more. It was also brought up that park funds and loans would pay for the needed improvements, other than the added lanes and pool depth.