Letter to the Editor | The new pool is getting closer, but we’re not there yet

On a warm, sunny day about 10 years ago, I sat on the edge of the pool next to Betsy Andersen. I’ve known Betsy since she was a teenage lifeguard with our younger daughter. She said she was going to spearhead another attempt to build a new pool, after repeated prior attempts had failed. I wished her luck and said I’d support her every step of the way, but that to make it happen, we had to build a facility that worked for the whole community, and we had to get all the aquatics stakeholders on board pushing for that pool. I jokingly made her promise to get it done before I turned 80.

The City hired a firm to help us come up with a conceptual design. Multiple community meetings were held and, by the end of 2016, a conceptual design master plan was approved. A 2017 study showed that the plan was financially viable. A community survey in 2018 showed that just over 50% of the community would support a bond issue to fund the new pool, far below the 2/3 needed to pass it. In 2020, the political consultants said there was no way you could bridge the gap from 50% to 2/3 to pass a bond measure, but we did it anyway in the middle of a pandemic, when no one could meet or campaign door to door.

Then, in 2021, the City hired ELS to design the actual pool facilities. They met with the community again to perfect the conceptual design, they told us the main pool in that design wouldn’t fit in the available space and came up with an alternative that would, one everyone was even more excited about than the original design. In January, that design was approved, but two months later we were told the high construction inflation caused by the pandemic made it too expensive to build. The design was immediately revised, preserving all the key aquatics elements, and approved again in April. A bid package was prepared, and the project was put out for bid, but both bids that came back were too high. The City tweaked the package and rebid it. This time the low bid was close enough that we could go forward and finally build the pool if we could close a $2.1 million funding gap. PRFO stepped forward and said they’d raise the money, and the City entered into a construction contract. As I write this, PRFO has already raised over $1 million.

Later this month, I will turn 80. There is nothing I can do about that, even in the quest for a new pool we’ve been talking about building for more than 20 years. But, I can donate to PRFO to help bridge the funding gap and so can you. Aging aside, we have overcome every obstacle to building this facility. This is Piedmont. We can do this. Please join me in donating to the PRFO campaign. I can’t wait to swim in the new pool.

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