Future of the Piedmont Community Pool up for discussion

Piedmont Community Pool head lifeguard Zoe Clancy and lifeguard Dennis Urbina preside over a Friday morning lap swim in March 2019. (Sam Richards)

The time is fast approaching, a Piedmont city report says, when the duct-tape-and-baling-wire approach to keeping the Piedmont Community Pool open will no longer be worth it.

At a special meeting Monday night, the Piedmont City Council will hear a report about whether to keep the 56-year-old pool open, in light of an expected $314,000 bill for doing so this past fiscal year. And assuming “no catastrophic failure of the pool vessel structures themselves,” it is expected the city could spend more than $4 million over the next 10 years to keep the pool “marginally functional,” with significant annual operating shortfalls a virtual certainty.

“The pool is becoming more expensive to operate every year, and (is) simultaneously becoming less able to serve the needs of the community,” according to a city staff report, which also says the pool is “already operating on borrowed time.”

The Piedmont City Council is being asked to provide guidance on the pool’s future, and to consider what ongoing financial loss – if any – is acceptable, and whether the time to close the pool is now.

The Piedmont pool, which has been closed since March 16 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, opened in 1964. Until 2011, it was operated by the private Piedmont Swim Club. In 2011, the city assumed responsibility for the pool’s operation.

The pool, a city report says, is also too small to meet current demand of recreational swimmers, lap swimmers, swim lessons, therapeutic swimmers, and competitive swimming and water polo playing, all vying for time in the small pool.

Starting in 2002, the Piedmont community has launched several efforts to build a new aquatics center, most recently the “Aquatics Master Plan Conceptual Design” in November 2016. In 2018, a consultant told Piedmont officials it would cost more than $1.5 million for the needed renovations to extend the pool’s life by at least five years.

Also on Monday night, Piedmont council members will talk about putting on the November election ballot a bond measure to raise between $53,900,000 to $78,500,000 to pay to rebuild or refurbish several major city buildings, parks and other facilities, including the pool.

A report on the swimming pool – which could benefit from passage of a bond measure – estimates the cost to build a new pool at from $12 million and $15 million.

In the shorter term, a city report says, the community now faces a starker decision – to invest in a new pool that could last 50 years, or phase out aquatics operations entirely.

Even if residents approve paying for a new pool, the city would be without one for the time it takes to build the new one, perhaps six months. All that said, Piedmont recreation officials have created a plan for reopening the pool sometime soon, once Alameda County Health Department shelter-in place orders allow it.

Things will look different, recreation officials say, with significant adjustments to the pool schedule, with fewer people allowed in the pool at any given time and more staff needed to enforce COVID-19 distancing rules. Lap swimming, Piedmont Swim Team training, water aerobics and swim lessons would return.

What won’t be back anytime soon, the city report says, is unstructured recreational swimming. The pool isn’t big enough to maintain the proper social distancing for that, a city report says. All this, the city says, will mean no income from pool passes, which are being eliminated. Those who have paid for them are getting refunds.

Monday’s meeting begins at 7:30 p.m., and can be viewed by going to http://piedmont.hosted.civiclive.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *