There could be a pool ‘deep and wide’ on BI

Deep and wide they’ll be a pool on Bainbridge deep and wide.

At least there would be if voters pass a $10 million bond to increase the Aquatic Center’s Ray Williamson pool from six to eight lanes, along with making it deeper. The Bainbridge Island Metro Parks & Recreation District commissioners passed a motion at a recent meeting to continue efforts in that direction.

Dawn Janow was the only dissenting vote. She said while she personally wants the larger pool she’s not seeing a consensus from the community. Commissioner Ken DeWitt said what the vote does is give people notice that a bond is being considered and that public input is needed with a show of support by the next board meeting, or it is not going to move forward.

The district did a survey and 275 people responded. 67% support an eight-lane pool, while 30% oppose it. Asked if the community would be willing to fundraise for it, 53% said yes and 40% said no.

Senior planner Matt Keough said a consensus would be about 75%. He said concerns about the project include: the cost and good use of funds; length of closures and the loss to the aquatic community; what is the role of the pool and who is responsible?; and a strong desire for a new (rather than remodeled) facility.

Another main concern is not being able to sense how two additional lanes and added pool depth would help increase programming.

Assistant executive director Amy Swenson said if the district goes out for a bond 60% of voters must approve it. Aug. 6 is the first primary for which the district could have a ballot measure ready. Staff’s current understanding is that May 3 is the deadline for appointing the three-person pro and con committees for the statements in the voters’ pamphlet, having the required resolution signed and for preparing the explanatory statement for the voters’ pamphlet.

Staff recommends that the board decide by its April 4 meeting about whether to proceed and if so, what amount the bond would be for. That’s after this newspaper’s deadline.

Acting parks executive director Dan Hamlin noted that a campaign committee of community members would also need to form to run the campaign. Swenson noted that the district cannot provide any staff time or resources to the campaign committee. Commissioner Ken DeWitt noted that commissioners can be involved but not in their official capacity.

DeWitt said the reason that August is an important date is that if construction gets delayed then the permitting requirements would change, which will cause the cost to go way up. And word from the BI School District is that it may be going out for a substantial bond in 2025, which the park district does not want to compete with. Hamlin said the risk is if the potential bond is on the ballot in November, it could delay Phase II B. Phase II cannot be delayed due to both the potential for a code change and because the pool can only be drained in the dry season.

Swenson said it would probably cost about $30,000 to run the election; it varies based on how many things are on the ballot. She said legal fees would probably be $10,000 maximum.

Commissioner Jay Kinney said if the pool is going to be expanded this is the time to do it. If it is rebuilt as a six-lane pool it is going to stay that way for 15-30 years. This is the swimming community’s chance for a bigger pool. He had thought a bigger Ray Williamson pool would be primarily for competitive swimmers, but he has learned that it would open time for recreational swimming in the Don Nakata pool for the public.

Commissioner Tom Goodlin said when Phase I and Phase II A were approved it was by using funds from reserves and borrowing the remainder. One of the benefits of getting a bond approved is that there can be an argument that citizens are helping to support activities at other parks as well. Getting a seasonal cover for the BI Recreation Center pool could be part of the bond as people would be displaced and could broaden the appeal of a bond.

Janow said she has talked to a lot of people including seniors, families and folks on a different economic scale and increased taxes are a difficulty.

In public comments, Lisa Claesson-Gordon said the pool is truly a community center, and everyone is a bad accident away from needing the pool for rehabilitation. With an aging and growing population, the eight-lane pool is important. Martha Devereaux said she is a physical therapist and people need the Aquatic Center and the BIRC for physical therapy. And Larry Hile said this is a bold step for the future and living on an island water safety is important. He also said a good percentage of BI in August is gone and if the burden is to get 3/5 of the vote the timing of that seems a little off.

In other news

•Park Services superintendent David Harry said staff is getting the Fay Bainbridge Park campground ready.

•Hamlin said the new ballfield machine removes the lips without damaging the grass in one or two passes.

•Staff has had meetings with the BI Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association and the National Park Service. The NPS has presented to the park district a management agreement for interpretation and education at the memorial site. It is a mechanism to pass nearly $100,000 a year through the district to BIJAEMA.

•Janow said there is a new mom-led soccer group in Kitsap County that is nice in terms of diversifying sports and opportunities for kids and addressing different needs for different populations.